This week, Salt Lake Community College will join other institutions in recognizing and honoring the experiences of first-generation college students, faculty, and staff on campus.
In acknowledgment of the 55th anniversary of the Higher Education Act, the SLCC community is invited to join national first-generation college student celebrations on Thursday and Friday.
First-generation students — students from families where their biological parents did not complete a four-year college degree — make up more than half of the SLCC population, far outpacing Utah’s other state colleges and universities.
“First-generation college students hold this salient identity, one that must be understood and recognized by educators and institutions in order to determine specific needs and supports for all first-gen students to then best serve the whole student,” explained Mikaela Mokofisi, the assistant director of TRIO Student Support Services.
The Higher Education Act of 1965 aimed to help level the playing field for higher education Americans from minority and low-income backgrounds. Unfortunately, that level playing field still lacks essential understanding of the things that make this journey different from that of a traditional student.
“For students that have to navigate higher education without prior knowledge from their parents, it can be easy to lose motivation, struggle to persist, and fall through the cracks,” said Brenda Santoyo, a specialist with the SLCC Dream Center. “Celebrating and honoring first-generation students is essential to their success in higher education, because they feel recognized, heard, and accepted. Juggling school, work, and personal responsibilities this day and age is incredibly difficult; we should be commending them for it every step of the way.”
In 2017, the Council for Opportunity in Education (COE) and the Center for First-generation Student Success launched the inaugural First-Generation College Celebration to “encourage campus communities to better understand the systemic barriers plaguing higher education and the support necessary for this important and resilient population to continue thriving.” In 2020, SLCC continues this tradition with virtual events and recognition.
This year’s celebration includes a panel discussion about the history of the first-generation student definition, entertainment via COE’s DJ Faro, music, trivia, prizes and a showcase of digital storytelling created by SLCC first-gen students.
“It is important to celebrate First-Gen students because we achieve the success of being the FIRST in our immediate family to attend and graduate college, which for many of us First-Gen students of color, comes with the insurmountable obstacles of systemic structures that were designed to exclude us … but yet, WE RISE!” said Gina C. Alfred, a coordinator with SLCC Student Affairs.
“We want first-gen students to know that their identities and whole selves matter, and to be able to recognize, celebrate and be proud of all of their academic accomplishments even amongst the existing impediments put in their way,” Mokofisi added.
Register to join in the celebrations and view the digital storytelling on the First-Gen website.
National First-Generation College Student Celebration
Thursday, Nov. 5, 4-5 p.m.
This is an opportunity for first-gen college students and recent graduates to generate energy and renew pride before National First-Generation College Celebration Day. With entertainment via COE’s DJ Faro, this fun hour of music, trivia, and prizes encourages students to engage on social media using hashtag #CelebrateFirstGen2020.
Joint Virtual First-Generation College Celebration
Friday, Nov. 6, noon-1 p.m.
This celebration features opening remarks from COE President Maureen Hoyler and Sarah E. Whitley, assistant vice president, Center for First-generation Student Success. Hear a panel discussion about the history of the first-generation student definition, using an asset-based lens.
Use the hashtag #Celebratefirstgen to celebrate and share your own first-gen story on social media.