Campuses Celebrate First-Generation Students

November 22, 2017

First-Generation College StudentHere are just some of the activities that occurred around the country on November 8, 2017. Check out #celebratefirstgen on social media to learn even more!

Dabney S. Lancaster Community College, Clifton Forge, VA. The Student Support Services and Talent Search programs at Dabney S. Lancaster Community College in Clifton Forge, Virginia joined forces with the Office of the President to highlight faculty, staff, and students who are first generation on campus through special banners and buttons. They established a "first-generation registry" to provide a resource for students seeking mentors and advisors among the campus leadership. Their event coincided with the grand opening of a food pantry on campus as hunger is an issue that often touches low-income, first-generation college-goers.

Idaho State University, Pocatello, ID. Staff and students from the TRIO program at Idaho State University passed out buttons and took pictures with first-generation college students. They were featured on a local news broadcast.

Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, Fort Wayne, IN. The Student Support Services and Upward Bound programs at Indiana University Purdue University in Fort Wayne, Indiana hosted a campus-wide event celebrating and recognizing first-generation students, faculty, and staff on campus by means of a First-Generation Birthday Party on November 8. All those on campus identifying as first-generation received a "first-generation" sticker to wear for the day and were invited to a large campus group photo where a cake commemorating the birthday of the Higher Education Act was served. Participating staff and faculty also received door placards that read "Hello, I'm First Generation" to help better identify themselves with first-generation students on campus. The aim of this event was to allow programs to identify and highlight the large number of first-generation students, faculty, and staff on campus and to begin more robust campus collaborations with first-generation staff and faculty and to ultimately work towards a campus-wide first-generation mentoring program.

Ivy Tech Community College-Northeast, Fort Wayne, IN. Ivy Tech Community College hosted a campus-wide First-Generation Student Celebration. The event was sponsored by the Office of Student Life and featured lunch, music, and a panel discussion. They also planned a few smaller activities which included a poster for first-generation students to sign and write a few words on what it means to them to be first generation and some profiles of success from first-generation administrators, faculty, and staff of the college. The goal was to spotlight the concept of first-generation college students on their campus and what it means — TRIO may serve these students, but it's bigger than just TRIO. The organizers would like the college to think about how a community college can have a greater understanding of what it means to be first generation. They are hoping that this will become a yearly event on their campus.

Joliet Junior College, Joliet, IL. Joliet Junior College's First-Generation Student Celebration included a faculty, staff, and alumni panel as well as a luncheon featuring a TRIO Student Support Services alumnus who now serves as the Project Manager of Community Engagement and Adjunct Faculty member at Malcolm X College in Chicago. The Illinois Student Assistance Commission also took part in the day's activities.

Kilgore College, Kilgore, TX. The Kilgore College Student Support Services program hosted "I'm F1RST" recognitions on November 8. Any staff or faculty members who were first-generation students received a sign to post on their office doors recognizing them as such. The TRIO SSS club sponsored a table during the day in the Student Center to provide information about first-generation students, and that evening the TRIO SSS program hosted a special event for TRIO participants that included a motivational speaker from Paradigm Shift and recognition of their fall graduates. Kilgore College Upward Bound students were invited to attend that event.

Lewis-Clark State College, Lewiston, ID. Lewis-Clark State College (LCSC) hosted its inaugural First-Generation College Celebration on Wednesday, November 8. First-generation college students make up a huge part of LCSC's enrollment and set a record comprising 76 percent of LCSC's overall head count in fall 2017. A year ago, first-generation college students accounted for 68.4 percent of the college's population. Along with activities to recognize LCSC's first-generation population, the event featured a panel composed of school administrators, including Andy Hanson, LCSC vice president for Student Affairs. Stickers were made available for first-generation students, staff, and faculty to wear.

Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA. On November 8, 2017, Louisiana State University hosted a "Celebrate First Gen" fair at the Student Union with campus organizations and academic departments hosting tables with information for support services targeted to first-generation students. Other organized activities included programs in the residence halls, such as special receptions for first-generation college students hosted by faculty in-residence (who happen to also be first-generation) and the student government hosted a dinner for first-generation students and their parents featuring TRIO professionals and other faculty and staff. Students were outfitted with "Proud First Gen" buttons and stickers and have also developed a special snapchat filter to help drive social media involvement on campus.

Madison Area Technical College, Madison, WI. TRIO and Retention Services collaborated with administrators, faculty, staff, students, and alumni to present the inaugural First-Generation Student Day Document is available for download (.pdf) on November 8. The event included: First-Gen faculty/staff panel, First-Gen student/alumni panel, #CelebrateFirstGen Campaign & #Madisoncollegeproud, DACA session, and Badger Promise. A photo booth, games, and resources were provided. This event also coincided with the unveiling of a First-Generation Campus Club, which will serve as a support group and campus community base for all those who wish to support and advance first-generation students.

Metropolitan State University, St. Paul, MN. The President of Metropolitan State University and many of their administrators and faculty are first-generation college students. As such, the institution had a full day of events on November 8th — a TRIO Open House, discussion session on the journey of first-generation college students, proclamations for first-generation college students, and a session on first-generation students' perspectives — and had buttons, t-shirts, and a banner. The institution collected information from all administrators, faculty, staff who are first-generation and listed their names on their website. The institution also launched a First-Generation website.

Penn State Greater Allegheny, McKeesport, PA. The Greater Allegheny Campus hosted a number of events on November 8 to celebrate and show support for first-generation students. Planned activities included a panel discussion featuring the Chancellor and Chief Academic Officer, faculty, alumni, and representatives from the undergraduate studies and TRIO offices on campus; resources table and book display featuring materials either written by or specifically addressing the needs of first-generation college students; an educational outreach table for current first-generation undergraduates to write notes of encouragements to students participating in TRIO Talent Search, which supports potential first-generation college-goers in middle and high school; and a "Gen 1" grad display highlighting pictures of first-generation students across the campus.

Rider University, Lawrenceville, NJ. The Federal TRIO Programs and state-sponsored Educational Opportunity Programs at Rider University honored first-generation students, faculty, and staff on November 8, 2017 at a First-Generation Student Rally. The celebration included an "I AM FIRST" generation rally with a walk around the Campus Mall to highlight the presence of first-generation Rider students and to honor their experiences. First-generation community and supporters showed their pride with "I'm First" wristbands and stickers. Following the rally, there was a group picture and raffling of prizes.

Texarkana College, Texarkana, TX. On November 8, Texarkana College hosted a special ceremony on its campus recognizing first-generation students, including those who participate in the College's TRIO Student Support Services and Educational Opportunity Programs. The Mayors of both Texarkana, Texas, Bob Bruggeman and Texarkana, Arkansas, Ruth Penny Bell, were there to honor the students through a special proclamation. Refreshments and door prizes were available at the event, and students learned about a new first-generation regalia cord available for graduates.

University of Maine at Farmington, Farmington, ME. University of Maine at Farmington (UMF) campus celebrated their achievements during the school's First-Gen Celebration Day. The day-long event took place in the Olsen Student Center and highlighted the stories of first-generation college students, along with the people who support them. Following the kick off, students were invited to share their stories of getting to UMF in a "First-Gen Speak Out." Students were also encouraged to begin each of that day's classes by telling their story of being a first-generation student. Organizers of the event prompted the conversation with questions such as "What obstacles did you face and how did you resolve them?" "Who supported you?" "Did your decision to attend college have any effect on your relationship with family or friends?" and "What wisdom would you share with other first-gen students?"

Prior to the Nov. 8 celebration, anyone wishing to share their story, or read others, could do so on the First-Gen Proud Blog. To show support for the celebration, people were encouraged to wear blue and green on Nov. 8, make a button at a table set up in the Olsen Student Center, and use the tags #firstgenproud and #celebratefirstgen on social media. Wearing a first-gen button also allowed for a 20 percent discount at the University Store.

University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN. As part of the national First-Generation College Celebration on Nov. 8, the University of Minnesota TRIO programs and College of Education & Human Development (CEHD) Student Services staff and students shared their stories to celebrate being the first in their families to attend college. Approximately 39% of CEHD first-year students are first-generation students.

University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM. The University of New Mexico (UNM) participated in the national "First-Generation College Celebration" on Wednesday, November 8. UNM officials used the event as an awareness tool for first-generation students. A cake and a photo booth were provided. Photos taken at the event and posted were requested to have #unmiamfirst and #celebratefirstgen in the description.

University of Washington, Seattle, WA. University of Washington President Ana Mari Cauce blogged about the challenges faced by first-generation college students and the university's commitment to doing all that they can to equip first-generation students with the tools and resources to help them navigate college.

University of West Virginia, Morgantown, WV. Students who will be the first in their families to earn a bachelor's degree were invited to the Mountainlair Commons on Wednesday, November 8 to mark the first national First-Generation College Celebration Day. The event was sponsored by the campus TRIO programs. First-generation faculty, staff, and students posted notes on the board about what being first means to them and their families. Dr. Betty Mei offered a workshop for students on how to prepare for graduate school. Cake was served.

West Virginia University Institute of Technology, Montgomery, WV. West Virginia University Institute of Technology (WVU Tech) highlighted the stories of students, alumni, faculty, and staff who are first-generation on November 8-9, 2017. During the two-day celebration, current faculty and staff wore stickers and posted signs in support of first-generation students and the department of financial aid helped students complete the FAFSA for the 2017-2018 academic year.