B1GS President Starts Textbook Lending Program for Fellow First-Generation College Students

By Tom McLaughlin

It’s time to set the record straight, says Johnasia McCrea, a first-generation college student at Rutgers University–Camden.

“People don’t realize what it means to be a first-generation college student, and why it is nothing short of a tremendous accomplishment,” says the double major in health science and psychology, who serves as president and a peer mentor for Bridging 1st Generation Students (B1GS) on campus.

According to the Pine Hill resident, financial instability is just one of the many challenges that these students face – and she is set on doing her part to change that.

In spring 2017, McCrea created the Rutgers University–Camden Lending Library, a repository of donated textbooks which can be borrowed by B1GS students, as well as those enrolled in EOF, TRiO or Student Success. The program goes a long way to supplement other available programs on campus, such as the Rutgers Open Affordable Textbooks program.

“The financial aspect of this whole journey is one of the most prominent issues that we first generation students face,” says McCrea, “and the lack of accessibility to books is one of the biggest problems that I see.”

Anyone is welcome to donate a book to the Library Lending program; simply bring it to the Center of Learning and Student Success, located in room 231 of Armitage Hall. Eligible students can submit a book request via email at ruclendinglib@gmail.com and, once approved, can keep the book for the duration of the semester.

“So far, the majority of the students enrolled in one of the aforementioned student success programs have taken advantage of the program,” says McCrea. “However, knowing how many first-generation college students that we have on campus, I am looking forward to growing that number.”

The books, adds McCrea, are emblematic of what she hopes students ultimately gain: peace of mind. Being a first-generation student can be “immensely stressful,” she says, with many issues contributing to this success being out of the students’ control.

“With this program, I hope that students can be aware that, even though it’s an obstacle that is in their way,” she says, “there are always individuals alongside them on their journey battling on their behalf.”

McCrea herself was inspired to work on behalf of her fellow students after attending the 6th Annual First Generation College Student Summit in Boston in April 2017. While there, she participated in a series of programs and seminars addressing the issues that first-generation college students face and learning ways to become empowered by their identities.

In one particular seminar, recalls McCrea, they discussed ways that students and college administrations can work together to address these challenges.

So she decided then and there that she would take the lead.

“From hearing this, I knew that I wanted to work in a leadership position for B1GS,” says McCrea. “I knew that, if given the position, I wanted to create resource programs that originated in – and benefited – this organization. It is gratifying to know that the Lending Library program can help ease the burden for so many students.”


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