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First Gen Celebrations Spread Far and Wide in Third Year


November 11, 2019

For the third year, COE and NASPA Center for First-Generation Student Success asked college campuses around the nation to hold rallies, panel discussions, listening sessions, and more in recognition of their first-generation students.

Campuses again responded mightily with awareness-raising events featuring food (lots of cupcakes and pizza), t-shirts, tables, photo booths, stickers, buttons, games, performances, and campus conversations. "The swag is out of control!" said Sarah Whitley, director of the Center for First-Generation Student Success, in a National Public Radio story.

Many campus organizations this year scaled up their celebrations from a day to a week to recognize the realm of challenges and opportunities for first-generation students. Groups addressed topics such as stigma removal, networking, and appreciating first-gen role models that include campus alumnae, faculty, even college presidents. “I do think holistically, this event, this week, is very important,” Greg Ruckdaschel Iowa State career adviser told the Iowa State Daily. “And it’s not just here at Iowa State but nationally it is First Gen Week... I’m so happy to see it taking off and gaining traction.”

Here are just a few highlights from some of the other ways campuses celebrated:

  • Colorado Mesa University launched their World Famous Firsts campaign, honoring first-generation students among notable figures—Neil Armstrong, Amelia Earhart, Barack Obama, and Sandra Day O’Connor — all of whom who changed history. As CMU Public Relations director David Ludlom said on the campus website CMUnow, “When a first-generation student sets foot on a college campus, they might as well be setting foot on the moon. What was a giant leap for humankind is likewise an immeasurable leap forward for a first-generation college student seeking knowledge.” CMU also held a testimonial event of first-generation stories and campus-wide BBQ.
  • University of Georgia School of Law screened “First Generation,” the award-winning documentary about four high school students — an inner-city athlete, a small-town waitress, a Samoan warrior dancer, and the daughter of migrant field workers — who set out to break the cycle of poverty by becoming first in their families to pursue a college education.
  • Colby College’s First-Generation-to-College/Low Income Program for Student Success (FLIPS) screened a video detailing the journey of student Misael Beltran-Guzman ’22. Students Jamya Brown, ’23, Azoya Clarke ’23 and Reagan Dennis ’23 performed a rap song. The trio wrote the song by using community norms decided by FLIPS students—be proactive rather than reactive; be inclusive never be intrusive; be accepting, honest, and respectful.
  • University of New Mexico’s UNM College Enrichment Program (CEP) partnered with the Office of Advising Strategies, UNM Valencia, the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP), Student Support Services (SSS) and the Office of Student Affairs and encouraged the campus to participate year-round in several ways. For example, they ask first-gen faculty and advisers to share their first-gen experience, display “First-Gen Proud” cards on their desks, and submit letters of support and encouragement to hand out to current first-gen students.
  • During the week of activities sponsored by Texas Tech’s Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, along with University Housing, people wore stickers to show their support of first-gen students they know.
  • Among events that The Notre Dame Office of Student Enrichment sponsored are a week of events such as “Postcards of Encouragement,” and a talent show for first-generation and low-income students. Director of student enrichment Consuela Howell told The Observer that she hoped the events would shift public focus from what first-generation students lack to what they add to the campus community.
  • Baylor recognized first-generation students and their families at the women’s basketball game.
  • Iowa State students gathered for a presentation on what it means to be a first generation college student and how to network Wednesday for the “Networking for First Gen Students: An Important "‘Pizza’ the Puzzle” event.
  • In celebrating First-Gen Day, Missouri Southern State University students were surprised to hear that not only was the director of the TRIO Project Stay a first-gen student, but that MSSU president Alan Marble was too. Local affiliate news coverage of University of Texas El Paso’s event reported that UTEP president Heather Wilson is also first-generation.
  • Georgia Southern University started conversations, issuing buttons that read, “Ask Me Why I’m 1st”. Testimonials rolled on the TRIO Student Support Services page, along with a message from university president Kyle Marrero.

Discover even more of the events by searching #CelebrateFirstGen across social media!


From Student to Scholar to Public Servant

July 25, 2019

My life would not be the same without the Upward Bound program. I spent three summers as a participant, living and learning alongside other students who dreamed of becoming the first person in their families to attend college. Upward Bound was my support system.

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30th Annual National Student Leadership Congress

June 26, 2019

On June 8-13, the Council for Opportunity in Education (COE) hosted the 30th Annual National Student Leadership Congress (NSLC) at Georgetown University. This year, nearly 200 Talent Search, Upward Bound, and Upward Bound Math/Science students from across the country, Puerto Rico, and Guam came to Washington, D.C., to learn, be inspired, and share their stories.

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Campuses Around the Country Celebrate First-Generation Students on November 8!

November 15, 2018

On November 8, 2018 — the 53rd Anniversary of the signing of the Higher Education Act of 1965 — the Council for Opportunity in Education once again partnered with the Center for First-generation Student Success for the second annual First Generation College Celebration.

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Texas Christian University and the Pursuit of HappineSSS

October 3, 2018

During the Council for Opportunity in Education’s 37th Annual Conference in New York City, Texas Christian University (TCU) was honored as the winner of the Student Support Services 50th Anniversary Student Video Contest.

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2018 Indicators Report Released at National Press Club, Encourages Dialogue among Scholars

June 15, 2018

On May 17, 2018, The Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Education (Pell Institute) of the Council for Opportunity in Education (COE) and the University of Pennsylvania Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy (PennAHEAD), released the Indicators of Higher Education Equity in the United States — 2018 Historical Trend Report at a meeting at the National Press Club.

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Past Presidents Unite for 40th Anniversary of MO-KAN-NE

May 7, 2018

On April 4-6, 2018, the MO-KAN-NE (Missouri-Kansas-Nebraska) Chapter of the Educational Opportunity Association (EOA) celebrated its 40th Anniversary at their Annual Conference.

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Students Celebrate National TRIO Day 2018

March 16, 2018

TRIO Day began on February 24, 1986, when a congressional resolution (H. Con. Res. 278) declared that Saturday, February 28, 1986, should be designated as "National TRIO Day" to commemorate the annual achievements of the Federal TRIO programs.

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The University of Connecticut's Center for Academic Programs Celebrates Their 50th Anniversary

January 29, 2018

On October 28, 2017, the University of Connecticut's Center for Academic Programs (CAP) celebrated 50 years of Changing Lives through Educational Access with a gala on the Storrs campus.

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Campuses Celebrate First-Generation Students

November 22 2017

Here 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!

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Capitol Hill Celebrates First-Generation College Students

November 13, 2017

On November 8, 2017, the Council for Opportunity in Education, in partnership with NASPA-Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, hosted the first annual celebration of First-Generation College Students on Capitol Hill.

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Morehead State University TRIO Program Helps Incarcerated Students

November 2, 2017

Any criminal conviction puts significant barriers before those wanting to improve their lives. It also reduces the pool of job candidates unnecessarily, according to two women who are working to help former inmates become college-bound students.

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McNair: From Limited Opportunities to Undreamed-of Careers

October 10, 2017

Despite a childhood of limited opportunity, Davarian Baldwin dreamed that he could become a politician or lawyer with predictable success.

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Helping Veterans Make the Most of the G.I. Education Bill

July 21, 2017

Julia Gusse can't tell you much about her service in the United States Air Force. She had top-secret clearance.

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Upward Bound Director of 40 Years Finishes His Career Defending Wittenberg University Program

June 14, 2017

Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity, said the Roman philosopher Seneca. And Eddie Chambers, Upward Bound program director for 40 years at Wittenberg University, was plenty prepared on March 22nd when he landed in Chicago and glanced at his cell phone before making his connecting flight back home to Ohio.

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Penn State's Talent Search Program: Strengthening Schools, Students

May 15, 2017

To sense the passion that Christal Graham-Jones has for her job as a Talent Search counselor, one only has to look at what she calls her "wall of fame," outside her office door at Sharon High School in Pennsylvania.

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TRIO Student Testifies Before Congress

March 31, 2017

Living in Greenville all my life helped me believe in the American Dream. But belief isn't enough. You also need hard work.

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TRIO Helped Homeless Student Succeed; She Helped Shake Up the System

March 14, 2017

After her first year of college, Jessica McCormick got the dreaded letter from the dean: pull your grades up or you'll be dismissed.

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Book Club Blazes Pathways to Leadership

February 27, 2017

"There's something special that happens when you get a group of powerful women in a room... and shut the door," wrote Andrea Wong in the forward of her book, "Secrets of Powerful Women: Leading Change for a New Generation."

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From Homelessness to Entrepreneurship with TRIO as the Spark

January 26, 2017

Ten years ago Hunter Lin was 11 years-old and working two jobs in China. Today he's a graduate nursing student at Johns Hopkins University and founder of a biomedical start-up company that hopes to launch technology at the end of 2017 to change how diseases are diagnosed around in the world. He credits TRIO with giving him a chance.

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As Actress Viola Davis' Star Soars, Others Recall Upward Bound Beginnings

January 3, 2017

When internationally-acclaimed actress Viola Davis gains her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame Jan. 5, two special people will be among the many around the world cheering her on: Her older sister, Deloris Grant, and the sisters' earliest acting coach, Ron Stetson.The federal Upward Bound program links all three.

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