When a student heads off to college, it’s a major life event not just for the student, but for the whole family.
At Family Day on Oct. 5, UNLV will celebrate the contributions to student success that come from parents, siblings, grandparents, cousins, step-relatives, and friends-so-close-they're-like-relatives.
“We’re bringing this event back this year for the first time in more than five years,” said Heather Rappaport, director of development for the Division of Student Affairs.
“Based on feedback, we decided to focus on just two events and allow a lot of time in between,” Rappaport said. “We found that families from out of town want time to take their students shopping at the grocery store or at Target, explore campus, or maybe do some sightseeing, so we wanted to leave them time to do that between events.
“We have a lot of local families coming, too. They may have taken campus tours during orientation, but this is a chance to see campus with their student leading the way. The student can take them around and give them the student’s perspective. ‘This is where I hang out. This is where I study.’”
The response to the brunch has been so good organizers had to schedule three seatings at the Dining Commons for the more than 700 people who have RSVP'd.
Student Affairs views family participation in their student’s college journey as part of a triangle needed for student success, Rappaport said. The other sides of the triangle are the students themselves and the university.
Juanita Fain, vice president of Student Affairs, said, “We know that family support of their students’ college goals is key to the students’ success. UNLV wants to encourage the families to be involved, to let their students know they are behind them, that they are proud of them, and that they share their goals. Family Day is just one way we do that.”
Rappaport said, “We know that our young students are emerging adults. They need their families’ support even if their parents can almost ‘hear’ them rolling their eyes when advice is given. Sometimes the student just needs to be reassured, ‘It’s going to be OK. Just hang in there.’”
And, of course, many UNLV staff members, including Rappaport, are there to help students and parents, too. She said UNLV staff and faculty know that college can be complicated, especially for first-generation families.
“I’ve had all kinds of questions — financial aid, safety, parking,” she said. “The basics I know. If they have a more involved question, I can connect them with the contact.”
You've Got Mail
One new family involvement strategy that UNLV is trying this year is the Letters from Home project.
“During orientation we had parents write letters to students, letting them know they are proud of them and giving them words of encouragement,” Rappaport said. More than 1,000 letters were received. Staff now is in the process of delivering the letters, along with snacks, to the students.
Here's what one step-father wrote to his student:
“Even though I’m not your biological father, I still see you as my daughter. Since the very first time we met, I knew that you were special. Your drive, your love, and your compassion for others is what makes you special. I am so proud of you and I look forward to watching you grow into the most successful woman you can ever be. It’s time for you to take over the world. Change the world for the better. I am here for you whenever you need me.”