First-generation team takes on textbooks

A massive portion of time in law school is spent reading, and the material does not come cheap.

The cost of textbooks can overwhelm any law student, but the high prices can be especially challenging for first-generation professional (FGP) students. First-Generation Professionals – a student organization at KU Law that is designed to connect FGP students – is headed by a duo that wanted to do more to support their community.

Having struggled to purchase textbooks themselves, FGP President Leah Hodges and FGP Vice President Joanna Alvarez decided to pave a smoother path for future KU Law FGP students. Together, they created the FGP Library.

FGP students fall into two categories – either the student’s parents did not go to law school but received a non-professional degree, or the student’s parents did not earn any type of college degree.

“I grew up in a low-income household, and I know what it’s like to struggle to afford the requirements of higher education,” said Hodges, a third-year student at KU Law.

FGP leadership team labels donated textbooks

FGP students often face cumbersome financial decisions in law school, and some students even cut back on basic necessities to continue their education.

“The average law school textbook can cost anywhere from $150-400, and law students usually take four to six classes a semester,” FGP Secretary Erin Nisly said. “Choosing to buy books over buying food or paying rent are choices FGP students can be faced with.”

Now, the first-generation community at KU Law has a new resource to help manage financial stresses.

The FGP Library offers casebooks, study aids and office supplies. Its success relies on donations from generous upper-level students and KU Law alumni. Students interested in donating to the FGP Library should contact Hodges ( or Assistant Dean Leah Terranova, advisor for the First-Generation Professionals.

“The creation of this free library by our FGP student organization leadership is a wonderful example of the work these students do to support their peers’ academic and personal success,” Terranova said.

The library, located in suite 212, is right outside Terranova’s office. Each book has an FGP sticker, and students can sign them out on a Google document for the entire semester. FGP students interested in using the library should contact Hodges ( to access the Google document.

The FGP leadership team is proud of the library and wants FGP students to feel comfortable using it.

“My hope is that this library provides some relief for FGPs so that the law school experience is just a tiny bit less stressful,” said Joanna Alvarez, a third-year student at KU Law and FGP vice president. “I also hope that it opens a dialogue between members, so they feel comfortable asking for help from each other if they need it.” 

There is a strong sense of togetherness and pride among the FGP leadership team. Their hope is that mentality continues to grow across the entire FGP community.

“My goal for the FGP student organization is to let first-generation students know that they belong here just as much as everyone else,” Hodges said. “I want our members to know that being first generation is not a weakness, but rather one of our most valuable strengths.” 

By Sydney Halas