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“Find the people who are for you.” First-Gen Student Grace’Lyn Preshon ‘24 (Social Work) Finds Community at UIndy

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“Find the people who are for you.” That is one of many wise pieces of advice that Grace’Lyn Preshon ‘24 (Social Work) gives to incoming college students, because finding her people is what helped Grace’Lyn thrive at the University of Indianapolis.

As a first-generation college student, Grace’Lyn wasn’t sure what to expect when it came to college life. Thankfully, on her tour of UIndy, Associate Professor of Social Work Jeff Bryant took the time to sit down with both Grace’Lyn and her mother to walk them through UIndy’s social work program and life at UIndy.

“He sat down and had a full conversation with me and my mom to talk to us about course levels, the classes I’d be taking, what I should expect, extra scholarships that I can apply for, and everything,” said Grace’Lyn. “He really helped me build the connection that I needed with the program. That sold me on coming to UIndy.”

Transitioning to college life is always a challenge. After the first few weeks, Grace’Lyn began to feel stressed both from classes and her personal life. One of her professors noticed her struggle and reached out personally to check on her.

“I got a personal email from this professor that said, ‘Hey, Grace’Lyn, are you okay? I understand you’re slipping behind. Is there anything I can do to help you?’” recalled Grace’Lyn. “He was also a first-generation student, so he understood and wanted to reach out to me and talk to me. I was like, ‘Wow, like this shows that you’re not just a number.’ You always think that colleges just say that, but no, at UIndy, you are definitely not just a number.”

After overcoming those first few hurdles, Grace’Lyn began to get more involved on campus. While living in the Umoja Scholars Living-Learning Community during her freshman year, Grace’Lyn learned about the registered student organization, Project Regalia. Grace’Lyn first joined the organization as Treasurer, but quickly climbed the ranks to become President.

“Project Regalia is a safe space for African-American women on campus,” explained Grace’Lyn. “We know there are challenges being a Black woman coming to a private PWI [predominantly white institution] so we create a safe space for us women.”

Joining Project Regalia gave Grace’Lyn the push she needed to expand her on-campus connections. She would go on to become a member of Active Minds, an Apartment Community Assistant (ACA) for the Lofts, a Presidential Ambassador, the Social Justice Chair of the Student Leadership Activities Board (SLAB), a MICI-AHEC Ambassador, an Orientation Leader, and the student representative on the Presidential Search Committee. In addition to her UIndy involvement, Grace’Lyn also recently joined Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Incorporated

Project Regalia also led Grace’Lyn to meeting the mentor she would ultimately dub her “campus mom,” Monique Kerr. In Grace’Lyn’s sophomore year, Monique became the advisor to Project Regalia. 

“I call her ‘Mama Mo,’ like she’s my campus mom,” said Grace’Lyn. “If I’m having school issues or friendship troubles, I’m going to her. She gets it, and she’s gotten her bachelor’s, her master’s, and now she’s getting her doctorate from UIndy, so she knows how everything here works. She’s always been a good guide for me, because she’s been in my shoes, which is important as a Black woman. She knows how it is to be a Black woman on this campus. So she’s been there for me all around, advisor, mama, friend, everything.”

Finding a good support system is key to a successful college experience, but it’s not easy. It requires a lot of energy and a determination to keep going. One quote from Maya Angelou resonated, and continues to resonate, with Grace’Lyn: 

“Love life. Engage in it. Give it all you’ve got. Love it with a passion because life truly does give back, many times over, what you put into it.”

“As freshmen, you’re trying to figure out what college is, you’re not really paying attention, but you have to realize that you have to put in that work to be able to excel in life,” said Grace’Lyn. “So keep pushing. Life gets hard, but don’t give up. It’s okay to make mistakes. It’s okay to try again.

“Use your resources. You have a lot of resources on campus. Reach out, find them, and try them out. Student Affairs and ProEdge are the best places to start, and ask those questions. They will lead you to the right place.”