Teeters and Abernathy will work together to establish and plan the events after inducting the chapter's new members. The duo was guided by Carmen Gonzalez, director of UNC's Lookout Scholars — a cohort of first-generation students who take classes and develop leadership skills together.
Even with existing organizations such as the Carolina Firsts Honors Program and the Lookout Scholars Program, Teeters said she wanted to create a smaller community for first-generation students to connect with one another.
Gonzalez said the goal of this society is "students supporting one another," and will continue to grow in the spring and beyond.
“We’re hoping to really see the organization grow in terms of students being able to work with one another and establish an honors society where they’re supporting one another to apply to opportunities, research and internships,” Gonzalez said.
During the induction ceremony, Teeters and Abernathy invited keynote speakers, such as Marcus Collins, associate dean and director for the Center for Student Success, to share their experiences. Other first-generation staff and faculty members also attended to support the process.
Senior Yesy Lopez, an exercise and sport science major, is a first-generation student who was one of the members inducted. She said she decided to join because as a first-generation student, it could be beneficial for finding resources to help students — like herself — succeed.
“As a senior, I will unfortunately not benefit from the program as much in that aspect,” Lopez said. “Instead, I hope I can play a part in helping first-gens younger than me to find the community that I didn’t.”
Teeters said Tri Alpha is meant to celebrate the first-generation students who have achieved such high honors at UNC. That’s why part of her focus with the honor society is helping seniors, who may find accomplishing certain tasks or goals in their final year to be difficult.
“What outsiders don’t see is the constant battle we fight with being recognized and valued on this campus,” Abernathy said. “While membership is only for first-gens, we hope that other students will become allies and support the initiatives that come out of this honor society.”