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You First at VCU Newsletter: Volume II, Issue ii, October 6, 2020
Advice and Tips
By Maria Ribera Sites and Ashley Williams
It's October, so make sure you fill out the 2021-2022 FAFSA!

To access financial aid if you're eligible, you will need to complete the FAFSA every year you attend school. Visit to get started. The sooner you fill it out, the more opportunity to have for financial aid! VCU's priority deadline is February 1st. If you get stuck, there are counselors in the Student Financial Management Center to help. Don't be afraid to ask for help--that's what they're there for! You can set up an appointment in Navigate. You can use the IRS data retrieval tool to help fill out the FAFSA. This limits errors and simplifies the process.

We know it can be tough to focus now that we're halfway through the semester, especially with online classes. And it's around the time of year when it becomes more difficult to stay focused on school, so here are some tips.

  • Create a vision board! Write out your goals and keep them in sight. It's easier to want to work towards your own goals when you can remind yourself of them. A few of the mentors will be hosting a vision board creation session on Saturday, October 17th, from 6:30-7:30pm, so if this sounds up your alley, look for more details soon!
  • Change up your study space! Find different areas to work in such as a local coffee shop (socially distanced, of course) or the reading porch at Cabell Library to stimulate your mind more. Studies show that varying your study environment can help with more memory cues, making it easier to recall that information. If you stay in your room to study, avoid the bed. Your brain will come to associate the bed with work and it will be harder to fall asleep.
  • Set down your phone! It's too easy to become distracted by social media and games. Turn your phone off, leave it in another room, or put time limits on your apps that distract you the most. Be intentional on using your time wisely to keep being a scholar! Need help breaking the phone addiction? Check out this list of apps that can help.
  • Go outside! If you're having trouble focusing on your work, take a break and go outdoors. Get some fresh air and enjoy a change of scenery. Going for a walk will add some brain revving exercise!
First-Gen Student Spotlight
By Yeleni Lopez and Jenelly Villegas

Name: Mycah Jewell 

Major/Year: Homeland Security, Freshmen

Hometown: Va Beach/Florida 

Academic Goal: Getting a college degree and getting the most out of his education 

Organizations/clubs: Eco Village Living-Learning Community; volunteers as a music teacher and German and Russian tutor

Personal Statement: As a first gen student who comes from a background of having to learn/teach myself about the process of college, my initial expectation of college was 200 student lectures of PowerPoint slides and professors doing the bare minimum for their students. But what I’ve noticed now, especially from doing Summer Scholars, is that professors will go above and beyond for your academic success. Alongside that, VCU helped my transition into college by supplying the information and schedules I needed to navigate my first few weeks. Although my classes so far are a bit challenging, in some aspects it also feels like high school part two. Furthermore, it also has been difficult at times to focus online since we are online due to COVID. Despite COVID affecting how I interact with everyone and my college experience, I know it’s necessary and I'm overall not terribly affected by it. It has become my new norm.

Things to Do
By Joshua Staples
First Tuesdays with You First:
Escape Room!

Hang out with other You First student org members in this month's themed escape room, on Tuesday, October 6th, at 6pm. Be sure to RSVP in Rams Connect.

You First Presents: How to Connect with Professors
Come learn techniques for communicating with professors, including how to structure that first "office hours" visit. Ever feel like you're intruding on their time? You're actually not! Learn how connecting with them can begin a lifetime of support. This week's topic is presented by Dr. Daphne Rankin on Thursday, October 8, at 2pm. To register, go to

Richmond Folk Festival
This epic Richmond experience brings people to the area from all over, and the show will go on! Check out this free virtual event offered via radio, streaming, and television October 9-11
 Richmond Folk Festival


Black Mental Health Matters

Join Dr. Myriam T. Kadeba, Staff Clinician in University Counseling Services and Interim Director of OMSA, for an interactive session on why black mental health matters. What do racial identity and mental health have to do with each other? What are the psychological effects of navigating a predominantly white institution? And where on campus can Black students find culturally-relevant support for their mental health and well-being? This program is a safe space for black students. Tuesday, October 13th, 4-5pm on Zoom! Register here 

VCU Ed Abroad: Go Beyond the Compass Info Session

On Tuesday, October 13, from 2-2:30pm, learn about the many ways that you can have an experience abroad all over the world through study, internship, service or research abroad. Want to know how so many Rams go abroad and how to make studying abroad a reality for you? The session covers program options for all majors, funding, student experiences from abroad, and steps you can take to go beyond the compass!

Location: Video Conference


You First Presents: Navigating Opinion During an Election Year and Beyond

Join Jake Khoury, instructor of Focused Inquiry, in a discussion on the difficulty of truly considering ideas and perspectives other than your own and meaningfully engaging people who hold these contrary ideas and perspectives. This talk hopes to remind you of the significance of considering diverse perspectives while giving you strategies for thoughtfully engaging the ideas of other people. The talk will be hosted by You First at VCU. This conversation will take place on Thursday, October 15, from 12:30-1:30. Register for the session at
Words of Encouragement 

Join some of the You First peer mentors and others in this opportunity to send out kind messages to faculty, mentors, mentees...anyone! Your messages can be anonymous or personalized. There will be music, uplifting conversation, and more. This event will take place on Thursday, October 15th, from 7-8pm. Join via Zoom at

For details, contact Sushma at

You First Presents: How to Make the Most of Academic Advising Appointments 

Tanya Wineland, Academic Advisor, School of Business, and Nicolette Zbell, Academic Advisor, Wilder School, will discuss how you can create an advising relationship to help you discover, dream about, and design your college path. You'll acquire practical tools and tips for making the most of your appointments. The talk will be hosted by You First at VCU.
This chat will take place on Monday, October 19, from 2-2:50Register for the Zoom link at the following URL:
For more ways to get involved and stay connected, check out this list of October events by Yeleni Lopez.
Need Support?
Overwhelmed or losing your motivation? We're here to help you get connected and find your groove. Email for an appointment or drop into our virtual meeting hours on Mondays from 2-3:30pm. Want to chat with a peer mentor? Fill out this form to get matched based on personality and interests:
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