PHMC sponsors "FLI is Fly" week to raise awareness of first-generation low-income student experience
From April 3 to April 7, the Princeton Hidden Minority Council (PHMC) is holding a “FLI [first-generation low-income] is Fly” week to raise campus awareness about the specific experiences and challenges low-income and first-generation students face.
“With this week, we really wanted to bring visibility to FLI students and get everyone to know what FLI is,” Council Co-Chair My Bui ‘18 said. “We wanted to start conversations about socioeconomic class on campus, because it’s a topic that often is stigmatized.”
PHMC, founded in 2013, is an umbrella group consisting of students from the Princeton Gates-Millenium Scholars, Princeton LEDA Scholars, and Princeton University Quest Scholars Network. The group’s mission is “to advocate for the first-generation and low income voices that aren't being heard [on campus],” as stated on its webpage.
The Council began the week of informational events with an ice cream social on Monday, April 3.
“It was really an open house to start off the week by letting students know more about what [the Hidden Minority Council] does,” intersectionality chair Mark Smith ‘20 said. “It was very open, with a lot of conversations and discussions.”
On, Tuesday, April 4, the group held a Resource Fair on the Frist 100 level from 8:30-10 p.m. Various student centers and organizations staffed tables to provide information about support resources at the University as well as initiate dialogue about socioeconomic class and its intersection with other identities.
The event took considerable time to plan, Bui and fellow board member Marisela Neff ‘20 said.
“There was a process of reaching out to centers and letting them know about PHMC and why its mission is important,” Bui noted. “Then it was about getting the word out and collaborating.”
“The goal was to start dialogues about FLI and get the word out about what it means to be FLI,” Neff added. “We tried to contact different centers so students will know how to reach out.”
On April 5, PHMC is hosting a Scholar's Institute Fellows Program (SIFP) Open House from 4-5 p.m. and SIFP Graduate Mixer from 5-6:30 p.m. on the third floor of the UStore.
SIFP is a continuation of the Freshman Scholars Insittute (FSI). Both programs provide first-generation and low-income students with “mentorship, academic enrichment, and scholarly community throughout their time at Princeton,” according to SIFP’s webpage.
“SIFP recently moved its headquarters, so the open house is a way for students to feel more comfortable stopping in for help,” Neff said. “It’s also a way for them to meet students in graduate school who have already done undergrad and who have a similar background.”
On Thursday, April 6, PHMC will conclude the week with an FLI Capstone Dinner at the Carl A. Fields Center for Equality and Cultural Understanding. Paul Rodney '00, Co-Head of Raines International’s Diversity and Inclusion Practice, will be the keynote speaker.
Members of the council stressed the week’s focus on inclusion, discussion, and awareness.
Bui added that many students don’t realize how socioeconomic class can affect day-to-day life at Princeton.
Bui said the council focuses on three words: connect, discuss, and advocate.
“We want to connect students to resources that can help them, to other students to professors,” she said. “We want to advocate for University policies.”
Co-Chair and Treasurer Melana Hammel ‘18, who has served on the council since she was a freshman, noted that the group has grown considerably in both size and visibility since its founding three years ago.
“The original board started with seven to ten members, and now there are 30 just on the board,” Hammel said. “If you look at the listserv, at who comes to our events, you see that the group has grown immensely."
In his first annual letter to the community, University President Christopher Eisgruber ‘83 specifically mentioned the Hidden Minority Council while emphasizing the University’s commitment to supporting students of all socioeconomic background.
“We have students at the activities fair at Preview and in the first few weeks of freshman year who already know about us,” Hammel said. “Especially considering our name is the Hidden Minorities Council, that’s really incredible.”
This is the first year that PHMC has held a “FLI is Fly” week, and they hope to continue it in future years, Bui added.
According to Hammel, one of the group’s major goals is to not only continue to grow but also to reach out to similar groups at other colleges.
“We want to build relationships with other schools,” Hammel said, adding that Emory University had started a similar program as the PHMC’s 2016 “Thoughts” campaign, in which students shared their experiences with being low-income or first-generation.
Ultimately, the goal of the week is to emphasize the unique contributions and experiences of first-generation and low-income students, according to Hammel.
“The name is ‘FLI is Fly',” she said. “We want to look at our experiences through many lenses, with a final emphasis on the positive.”