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Final Project

The University of North Texas is home to thousands of first-generation students. Dalton Dickson, a college junior, said he saw a need for an organization that all these students could call home so he decided to start the First Generation Student Organization, also known as FGSO.

Dickson, the president of FGSO, said students have a lot of questions about what being first generations means. Some students have an older sibling who has graduated college, or have an aunt or uncle who have their bachelors degree and they don’t know if they technically qualify as first generation, though they do.

According to the Department of Education, first generation students are defined as “those from families where neither parent attained any education beyond high school.”

Source: Department of Education

Parents who went to college have gone through the college application process and can help their kids navigate what can be described as “an overwhelming process” but students whose parents haven’t gone through that can’t always get that help from home.

“It’s not their fault but it’s also not a good situation for the students because it’s basically like everyone is going into it blind" dICKSON SAID.
Source: FGSO instagram account

FGSO has had three meetings this semester. Students were able to get to know other first-gen students, talk about their college experience and about the struggles they face. Dickson said the meeting turnout has met his expectations, they have an executive board and have a lot planned for the upcoming semester.

“FAFSA workshops, that kind of thing, a lot of outreach to high schools in the area, as well as talking to freshman who are already here,” Dickson said.

The First Generation Foundation website states that a 2010 study conducted by the department of education concluded that only 15% of students who continued their education after high school at either two-year institutes or community colleges went on to complete their bachelor’s degree.

FGSO has members who started out at UNT and members who transferred from a community college. Dickson said the organization plans to mentor first gen students going into UNT.

“That first semester can really dictate whether or not you’re going to finish college, whether you’ll finish it on time, whether you’ll actually enjoy it…” Dickson said.
Source: FGSO instagram account

He added that college feels like it is made “without first generation students in mind” because first-gen students aren’t always guided along and told how things work.

“It’s kind of generational knowledge that we didn’t receive,” Dickson said.

He hopes the organization can continue to be home to first generation students at UNT even after he graduates.

Dalton Dickson, president of FGSO

360 video at UNT campus


recreated info graphic
original info graphic from Statista

Project 2- 2020 elections

With so many candidates running for the 2020 presidential election, Americans have a lot of proposals to look at. For some, the single issue of student debt will determine who they cast their vote for.

In a seven-day Twitter poll 60% of poll takers said the issue of student debt would definitely influence their vote in the 2020 presidential election. 40% said it would only influence their vote a little and no one said it wouldn’t influence their vote.

“I am a mom and I have bills to pay and food to buy in order for my child to not have to worry if she'll be eating or not” Daisy Rosas, a college student and mother of one, said.
Daisy Rosas

She said she has accumulated thousands of dollars of debt and she never thought it’d be something she'd have to deal with.

In a Google questionnaire, the majority of people said they think a total cancellation of student loans regardless of the family income would work better than the other proposals. Fatima Flores, a college senior, was one of those people.

“I don’t want to have the stress of trying to find a job when immediately we are hit with debt that we can’t pay off yet,” Flores said.
Fatima FLores

She said this issue isn't completely new to her, she has thought about it in the past. Even students who haven't accumulated debt say it will influence their vote.

"I have no student debts so it has not been an issue for me," Areli De la Rosa said, adding that the issue will influence their vote "very much".
For another responder, this issue is on their "top 7" on their list.

The responder said student debt has been something they have always known about but it hadn't hit home until recently.

Thought this issue will affect who this responder votes for in the 2020 election it won "as much as immigration will" they said.

Whether the issue is at the top of voter's priorities or more towards the bottom of the list, a Twitter poll shows the issue is either extremely important  or sort of important but nobody seems to say it's not important at all.

Some students choose to start out at community colleges because it's more affordable and it sometimes results is smaller loans or none at all. After transferring from a Dallas County Community College to a four year university, Gilberto Obregón said student debt became a bigger issue.

"I didn't need to take out loans due to the AFFORDABLE tuition prices dcccd offered" Gilberto Obregón, a college student who started out at a community college, said.
Gilberto Obregón

He said he thinks mass loan forgiveness in which the amount forgiven depends on family income is the best option being proposed.

Katherine Ramos, a high school junior, said she thinks eliminating tuition at all public, private and trade schools is the best option.

"It is very important because I will be graduating soon and I have to start planning out what I want to do and how I’m going to do it" Ramos said.
"The cost of higher college is so high. It stops a lot of people from continuing their education" Ashley Patiño said.

She added that the issue will "definitely" influence her vote in the upcoming election.

College graduate Noah Diestelkamp said student debt is something he has though about.

When asked if it would influence his future vote he said "probably not."

A recent college graduate who took the previously mentioned questionnaire said her vote goes to the candidate who looks out for students.

"There are many students who struggle to pay back loans they took out only to further their education. I'm on that boat because I recently graduated, but my DEGREE didn't guarantee me a job meaning i wouldn't be able to pay back my loans," the responder said.

Whether the issue is a top priority or not and whether voters have student debt or not, this is an issue with several proposals. Voter can check out the candidates' proposals on the issue at studentloanhero.com


The tree lighting even was held at Klyde Warren Park in Dallas. It was from 2-6 p.m. There were several food truck vendors, Christmas pictures opportunities and activities fit for kids. Besides the huge Christmas tree, the event had live music and “snow” to set the Christmas mood. To check out upcoming Christmas events at Klyde Warren Park head to klydewarrenpark.org


This is a 360 photo of a group of Dallas Casa volunteers at their training. During the training they are taught to work alongside Child Protective Services, lawyers and parents. There were about 40 people present for this class and they will soon become active advocates and start getting cases.

Profile on Dallas casa

Beat project 1

Dallas CASA located on 2757 Swiss Avenue, Dallas Tx.

Dallas CASA is a non-profit organization that advocates for children who have been abused or neglected and placed in foster care. Volunteers have to go through training before getting assigned to a case and getting to advocate for a foster child.

“CASA volunteers are able to get to know these kids, really spend the time with these kids, really have the opportunity to make sure their needs are being met and that they are being advocated for,” Caroline Beneke, a Dallas Casa volunteer said.

She said the training to become a full-time volunteer is tough, but it prepares them for their first case. “It’s going to start with an information session…you learn more about the program, you hear from an advocate on their experience… you fill out an online application, we do a background check….if you get approved you start the 30 hour training,” Beneke said.

She said at the beginning of her first case her kids were hesitant and shy. “You’d walk into the room with them and they weren’t sure if they could trust you because they had that taken away from them.” She said it took a couple of months but eventually they became more trusting and started expecting her visits.

“Even though they [foster kids] have words they don’t know how to use them and so its really important that you go into these cases… getting the chance to know them and getting to advocate for them is one of the coolest most emotional but yet rewarding experiences that I think one can have” Beneke said. Sometimes lawyers on a case change, or the CPS worker on a case changes but the Dallas Casa advocate does not. Advocates make the commitment to stay with a case from beginning to end. They are important because they’re a constant factor in a case and really get to know the children on that one case. Beneke said the better you know a child “the better you can advocate for them.”

Volunteers are an important part of Dallas CASA, they are sometimes the only constant factor during an uncertain period of a child's life. If you are interested in becoming an advocate for children in foster care you can visit dallascasa.org for more information.

Caroline Beneke, a Dallas CASA advocate on the left and Tori O'Neal, a Dallas CASA supervisor on the right.


360 picture inside a Dallas CASA volunteer training session

profile story on Caroline beneke

Caroline Beneke first heard about CASA Dallas through her sorority in college.

“Being a part of the sorority really opened up my eyes to the organization [and] what they do and a few summers ago I actually had the opportunity to apply for the internship here” Beneke said.

After college she was able to stay with the organization as a full-time employee and an advocate. She said there was a lot of training involved before becoming an advocate and that it was a good opportunity to gain knowledge and prepare herself for her first case.

Caroline Beneke, CASA Dallas advocate
“We cover eight different chapters ranging from all different topics of things that you are going to kind of witness firsthand when you do take your first case” Beneke said.

Once advocates get their first case, they are assigned to a supervisor who goes with them to the court cases and who can answer any of their questions.

She said every case is different and unique. Recently she wrapped her first case which involved two kids. She said she noticed a difference in them a couple months into her visits with them, that they were able to trust again.

“Just really getting the chance to know them, to advocate for them, is probably one of the coolest, most emotional but yet rewarding experiences that I think one can do" beneke said.

If you're interested in becoming an advocate for a child placed in foster care you can head to dallascasa.org for more information.

Making 'Gorditas'— VIDEO INTERVIEW inside a Denton Mexican restaurant

Human of denton

"I got my associates from a community college and transferred to a four year university last year. I'm getting my bachelors degree in criminal justice and I finished my Spanish minor last semester. I moved out this semester but I go home pretty often because of work. I talk to my parents everyday whether I'm in Dallas or Denton. We'll text or Facetime or just have a plain phone call. They taught me to be responsible from a very young age. My dad is the funniest man on earth and my mom is the sweetest woman. I love hanging out with them and I'm excited for them to see my walking down the stage next May. Also I want to let everyone know I am looking for a job in the criminal justice field so I'm open to job offers."

-Norma Varga, a student in Denton.


Created with an image by Guillaume Galtier - "untitled image"