‘Being First Can Be Hard’

Five students in the College of Business inducted into the Alpha Alpha Alpha Honor Society.

Story by

Mary Ellen Alu

Five students in the College of Business were among the inaugural group of high-achieving, first-generation students inducted into the Alpha Alpha Alpha (Tri-Alpha) Honor Society at Lehigh.

Daniel Lim ’20 (finance), Hira Awan ’21 (business management), Jenny Lin ’21 (accounting and business information systems), Katelyn Reiss ’19 (finance) and Kylie DeMaria ’19 (economics) were among 35 students, alumni, faculty and staff members inducted in the Spring 2019 ceremony.

FIrst-Generation Students at Lehigh in Honor Society

Clockwise from top left: Kylie DeMaria ’19, Jenny Lin ’21, Katelyn Reiss ’19, Hira Awan ’21 and Daniel Lim ’20.

“Sometimes you feel overlooked and undervalued as a first-generation college student, and your struggles sometimes feel invisible,” said DeMaria, who is pursuing a law degree at Drexel University following her Lehigh graduation in May. “It’s a great feeling to be around people who understand you and appreciate you.”

Lim said the induction reminded him to continue to stay motivated toward his academic and personal goals.

Lehigh established the Epsilon chapter of the honor society as a way to recognize the often resilient, first-generation students who bring a diverse set of ideas and backgrounds to the university, said George White, who served as managing director for Student Access and Success at Lehigh. “They are helping to make Lehigh a better place.”

At the ceremony, inductees received a pin that incorporated the organization’s logo: a star in the center of several circles. The circles indicate the communities of which the inductees are a part—the Lehigh community, the nearby geographical community and the wider world. The star, meanwhile, represents individual inductees—beacons of light for others to follow.

Advisor Bob Flowers, deputy provost for faculty affairs, recited the initiation pledge. It read, in part, “Being first can be hard. Being first can be scary. Being first can be exciting. As part of the first generation in your family to go to college, you are a source of pride and guidance to others.”

Lin, who is highly involved in Lehigh’s first-generation community as vice president of Lehigh F1RST, says the honor society offers assurances that first-generation students are breaking down barriers. “We are part of the next generation of trailblazers who are igniting positive change at our respective campuses,” she said. 

Reiss, who minored in global studies and entrepreneurship, began working at Johnson & Johnson as an associate financial analyst after graduation. Honored to be part of the inaugural induction, she pointed out that the many things that first-generation students face in college are new to both them and their families.

 “It’s a team effort for first-generation students to graduate, and I was lucky enough to have the support of my parents, brothers, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins,” she said. “This honor society, although new, will be a great support system for incoming first-gen students, as well as current ones, and I’m excited to see the network that will evolve from it.”

The student inductees will choose service projects in the community as part of their inclusion into Tri-Alpha. 

“It really means a lot to me to be a part of something that recognizes and represents our efforts and works to provide us with opportunities and connections that we may not have had otherwise,” said Awan. “As a first-generation student, it is my goal to not only succeed myself but to aid in the success of as many of my first-generation peers as I can.”

Story by

Mary Ellen Alu

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