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UTSA Opens Dorm Wing For First-Generation Students

UTSA freshman Aylin Esparza makes the bed in her new dorm room with her mom, Patricia Sanchez August 17, 2018.
Camille Phillips | Texas Public Radio
UTSA freshman Aylin Esparza makes the bed in her new dorm room with her mom, Patricia Sanchez.

On the fourth floor of Alvarez Hall Friday, Aylin Esparza and her mom, Patricia Sanchez, unpacked a box of sheets to make her bed.

The 18 year old freshman has never lived away from her home in Dallas, and she’s hoping her new neighbors will become something of a second family while she’s at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

“I’m excited about meeting new people, but I’m also scared about not knowing anyone, so they kind of go together,” said Esparza, one of about 40 people living in a new wing of the residence hall set aside for students who are the first in their families to go to college.

“(The first-gen wing) gives you a sense of community almost, and makes you feel comfortable that you’re not the only one going through this for the first time,” she said.

With the help of her parents and two volunteers, Esparza is quickly settled in.

Her father, Mario Esparza, said he knows she can handle living alone, but he’s glad she’s got the extra support.

“She won’t feel as out of place, and she’ll be able to start learning more,” he said in Spanish.

Almost half of UTSA’s more than 31,000 students are first generation, and the university has a lot of events and centers geared to making sure they know how to navigate college even though their parents aren’t experienced with the process.

But the first-gen wing at Alvarez Hall gives students even more support, said housing director Dan Gockley.

“This is just an opportunity for somebody who really wants just a little bit more of a connection. Maybe they’re a little bit more hesitant about their experience living another place, perhaps,” Gockley said.

Students who live in the wing will also have a faculty coach and a peer mentor who were the first in theirfamilies to go to college.

Camille Phillips can be reached at camille@tpr.org or on Twitter @cmpcamille