First-Year Leadership Opportunity (FLO) is an Associated Student program designed specifically for first-year students looking for ways to get involved with the Chico State campus and community. Each month one member is chosen by their fellow FLO members and peers as the person who has stood out and shown FLO’s core values. This month's FLO representative is Julissa Paredes.

How has your involvement with FLO impacted your personal and professional life?

FLO has impacted my experience as a transfer student in a positive way. The program has made me feel less homesick and inspired to succeed further in life. I went through a very hard time my FALL semester. I lost two of my dearest family members in the same weekend, and it took a toll on my mentality. I didn't know who to go to at the time because I had just started my semester at Chico State. I was still trying to find my community and as much as I wanted to give up, my FLO family were the first to help me and let me know about the resources on campus. They guided me to the Well Cat counseling Center. It was the best decision I could've made. The staff at the Well Cat Counseling Center is super sweet and kind. I have coped with my grieving by talking to a counselor and it has helped me immensely. I’m learning to heal while attending my undergrad. I have noticed in myself that I have gained more motivation to talk to my peers at school and be outgoing. I have gained momentum to finish my semester strong, and also have better sleep/study. I don't think I would have made it to the Spring Semester without my FLO family. I'm grateful for them.

What have been some of the benefits or opportunities that have come your way as a result of being involved with FLO?

Benefits and opportunities that have come my way is lots of positive knowledge. Being involved in FLO has taught me how to recognize good and bad friends. People in FLO give great examples of what good friends can look like and how to recognize them as well as how to react to people who are being disrespectful. They taught me to always react with kindness and speak up in a respectful way. Another benefit that FLO has provided for me is recognizing pronouns. It is very important to treat others with respect, and make others feel comfortable around me. With that, I learned how to use they/them pronouns, or ze/hir and ze/zir. I no longer use "hey guys" I say "hey everyone". Moreover, I’m being taught how to study better, take care of my well-being and have a growth mindset. I love that I have been taught these benefits/opportunities because it will assist my diversity in the community and make people of all walks of life feel welcomed. Opportunities that have opened up for me since I've joined FLO have been meeting other students through civic engagements. With this being a requirement, I would have never been brave enough to go but considering that I do not want to fail the course and I need to step out of my comfort zone, I’m able to go to events on campus with positive energy in meeting new people. Since joining FLO, I really feel more included and seen. I follow social media accounts that allow me to stay involved in events that are going on, on campus. The accounts I follow are Associated Students, the Wrec, Cave, Student life and Leadership, etc.

Additionally, FLO has taught me how to act, dress, and greet as a professional in an interview. I had the opportunity to practice with them as if I was in a real interview and they gave me their feedback on what I can do better. FLO has shown me how to create a LinkedIn account, how to perfect my resume, and as well as how to communicate professionally. Because of them, I now know what not to do in and outside of my workplace, which will benefit me with my future career.

In your opinion, what role does recognition and appreciation play in building a strong and supportive community like FLO?

In my opinion, I truly feel recognition and appreciation is important in FLO. It makes you feel proud of who you are becoming. It does require work, but it will pay off. To always become a better person than you were yesterday, shows you are trying your best. And that is what FLO wants for you: to succeed in your academics, flourish into a beautiful person on campus, and to know the resources. Recognizing all students in FLO makes us feel more seen and belonged like a family.

How has your participation in FLO helped you to grow and develop as a leader or advocate in your own right?

My participation in FLO has helped me grow to be a better leader in my community by showing care, kindness, and respect towards persons on campus. As well as knowing that my voice matters and participating in events on campus will allow me to create a great experience here at Chico State. I feel more confident as a first-generation leader now. I feel that if there is a student that needs assistance, I now have this great knowledge to guide them in their next steps of getting help. I also feel that I can be involved in voting, or taking surveys, and speaking up for what I genuinely believe in.

Julissa is a third year-first generation transfer student from Butte College that will be graduating Spring 2024. She is majoring in Criminal Justice with a Paralegal Certificate. Julissa also appreciates her FLO-G group as well as her FLO Facilitators and says that she wouldn't be who she is now without them.