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Blinn launching new organization for first-generation college students

First-generation graduates offer advice to students during discussion panel

January 14, 2014

When Javier Aldape finally opened the letter from the dean, the repercussions of his 1.8 GPA struck him in the gut. When he had to translate the contents of the letter for his Spanish-speaking parents, he was sure his world would end.

Aldape was sentenced to scholastic probation and dismissed from the college of biomedical sciences at Texas A&M University. He lost two scholarships that would have paid for most of his undergraduate degree.

“It was the worst and the greatest day of my life,” said Aldape, now a regional advisor at Texas A&M. “I had to break it down to Mom and Dad. They didn’t know how I was going to continue going to school. I told them, ‘I got myself in, I need to get myself out.’”

He did exactly that. Aldape went on to earn bachelor’s degrees in history and Spanish with a 3.0 cumulative GPA, his master’s degree in Hispanic cultural studies and is in the process of returning to school for a doctorate degree.

“First-generation students have to break out of that cycle,” Aldape said. “Be open about what you don’t know. Don’t be afraid to say, ‘I don’t have the guidance. I don’t know how to navigate. I need the help.’ Find the help, get hold of the resources and you’ll be successful.”

Aldape was one of four speakers at a recent Blinn College panel discussing the unique challenges first-generation students face. Edith Pequeno, an academic advisor at the Blinn College – Bryan campus, is launching First-Gen, a student organization that will support first-generation students as they adjust to collegiate life.

In addition to Aldape, the panel included Fernando Aguilera, a recent Texas A&M graduate, and two of Blinn’s own: Academic Advisor Cynthia Sabbs and Social Science Instructor Serena Aldrich.

Students are invited to attend First-Gen’s kick-off meeting at 11 a.m. Jan. 21 in Student Center Room E-120. The second meeting will be from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Feb. 6 in the Advising & Counseling office, Room S-157.

A nursing student from El Salvador who attended the discussion panel, Kenia Duarte said she is thankful for the budding organization.

“It’s hard for me being a freshman and not knowing too many people,” Duarte said. “I think this organization is going to be very helpful to me and other students so we can learn how to study and get used to college life.”

For more information about First-Gen, contact Pequeno at
Blinn enrolled 18,413 students this Fall and has experienced 31.1 percent growth since 2006.

Founded in 1883, the College’s tuition and fees average about one-third the cost of the same classes at most four-year public universities in the state. In addition to its campuses in Brenham, Bryan, Schulenburg and Sealy, the College teaches online courses, dual credit for high school and prepares students for quick employment through its career and technical certification programs.

Registration is available for Blinn’s Winter minimester through Dec. 13, and students can register for the Spring semester through Jan. 12. For more information, visit:

PHOTO – From left: Cynthia Sabbs, Blinn College academic advisor; Javier Aldape, regional advisor at Texas A&M University; Fernando Aguilera, Texas A&M graduate; and Serena Aldrich, Blinn Social Science instructor, speak to students about the challenges first-generation college students face during a recent panel discussion.