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This past March, a new group appeared on campus­ — F1RST COMETS. Founded by rising sophomore MacKenzie Hillsburg and Joshua Gillespie, coordinator of student success initiatives, F1RST COMETS is an on-campus group created to support first-generation college students.

When MacKenzie first came to Olivet College as a first-year student, she experienced feeling lost and scared. She was a first-generation college student, meaning neither of her parents went to college. Because of this fact, she could not go to her parents for advice or guidance. MacKenzie realized she was not the only student going through this. “I wanted to help other students like me succeed. I wanted to help more students get involved,” she said.

Working with Gillespie, she created F1RST COMETS. According to Gillespie, F1RST COMETS is an organization that helps first-generation students make the transition from home to college. “We want to even the playing field by making sure (first-generation students) are familiar with campus resources,” said Gillespie. The purpose of the group is to support and assist first-generation students during their first year at college. They want students to have a sense of belonging at Olivet. “Our goal is to ensure their success,” Gillespie said.

According to Gillespie, there are many plans to help first-generation students achieve this purpose. Student Engagement will be hosting a Student Success Series this upcoming fall semester. Every Wednesday, there will be an event designed to help educate first-generation students on an aspect of college life. Gillespie said there will be presentations on academic skills — such as time management, study tips and faculty information — and on life skills. There will also be featured speakers at some of the events.

Gillespie is planning a mentorship program and biweekly meetings for first-generation students. The mentorship program will pair incoming students with an upperclassman who can help them adjust to college life. The biweekly meetings will give first-generation students a chance to meet up and discuss the issues that are affecting them. It will also give Gillespie the ability to give information directly to the students. Gillespie also wants to plan some on-campus activities and trips for F1RST COMETS.

A main goal of F1RST COMETS is to offer strong communication. In addition to the variety of campus events, F1RST COMETS will send out mass emails, host pop up events and reach out to the campus community. “We’re going to try our best to make sure people know who we are and that we connect with them,” Gillespie said.

At the moment, F1RST COMETS is made up of eight students and the group is excited to welcome new members. “The team is still forming,” Gillespie said. “We just started this past semester in preparation for this fall.” Gillespie is confident that F1RST COMETS will expand as time goes on.

Joshua Gillespie and MaKenzie Hillsburg at Comet’s Cupboard, another imitative they teamed up to start on campus.

“There’s nothing like having someone,” MacKenzie said. “I want this group to help students. To say ‘you aren’t alone. You have help.’”

Gillespie will be presenting at New Student Orientation for anyone who has any question or wants more information. He will also be reaching out to incoming first-generation students through email.

Learn more about F1RST COMETS by visiting the Student Success Center or contacting Joshua Gillespie at jgillespie@olivetcollege.edu or MacKenzie Hillsburg at mhillsburg@olivetcollege.edu. For more information about Olivet College, contact the Office of Admission at 800-456-7189 or admissions@olivetcollege.edu.

This feature was written by rising junior Bray Wright, marketing and communications student intern. She is an English major and writing minor, a scholarship winner of the Global Citizen Honors Program and a staff member of the Garfield Lake Review. A self-proclaimed storyteller, she plans on going into the publishing industry after college.

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