First@Colgate Organizes Week-Long First-Generation Student Celebration

From Friday, Nov. 4, to Thursday, Nov. 10, First@Colgate hosted a First-Generation Celebration Week to honor these individuals. The program provides support to students who are the first in their families to attend college. Based around National First-Generation Celebration Day, which is established throughout the United States as a way to honor first-generation college students, the week included a variety of events and activities that aimed to support and celebrate first-generation students.

The week kicked off on Friday with a bowling night in partnership with the Office of Student Involvement. At the event, students were shuttled from Colgate to a bowling alley off campus, with the goal being to allow first-generation students to gather as a community and enjoy themselves.

On Saturday, Nov. 5, First@Colgate partnered with the COVE to participate in community service alongside the Colgate caretakers, an organization that partners with Crouse Community’s Hamilton Adult Day Health Center to provide support to adults with long-term diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. With these patients, First@Colgate organized activities involving origami and cards that were sent to patients at the Health Center. 

In an effort to bring exposure to the experiences of first-generation students at Colgate, students were encouraged to share their stories via Instagram on Sunday. Tabisha Raymond, the assistant director of First@Colgate, hopes that through this social media campaign, students will become more comfortable sharing their identity as first-generation students. 

“It’s very easy to forget that we go through a bunch of different trials and tribulations that a student who had both parents obtain degrees might not have gone through in terms of lack of support, financial support, and an array of other things that take place in the communities that we’ve come from,” Raymond said. “[This campaign] is an opportunity to reflect on how far the students have come, why they’re proud to be here, and why they’re proud to be first.”

On Monday evening First@Colgate celebrated the achievements of first-generation students at Women’s Basketball’s first game of the season against Cornell. Attendees were presented with the opportunity to enter raffles and answer trivia questions throughout the game. First@Colgate especially wanted to honor junior Tiasia McMillan, a member of the First@Colgate staff, who is not only a first-generation student, but also plays on the Women’s Basketball team.

Dean Rajhai Spencer, assistant dean for administrative advising and director of First@Colgate, explains that First@Colgate chose to support this game and to organize the art showcase for first-generation students on Wednesday, in an effort to highlight the multi-faceted identities of first-generation students.

“This event is significant because we’re not only recognizing that we’ve expanded to include offers to students, but that first-gen students carry multiple identities on campus,” Spencer said. “They walk in different circles, and some of them overlap multiple times. But we’re all a part of a larger community together and we’re here to support each other.”

On Tuesday, Nov. 8, National First-Generation Celebration Day, First@Colgate hosted a reception honoring not only the current first-generation students of Colgate, but also first-generation staff, faculty, and alumni. 

Spencer explains that this event could serve as a networking opportunity for first-generation students and allow them to see examples of first-generation success.

“A lot of students often think they’re all alone and it’s hard to see the finish line at times,” Spencer said. “But if you can see an example of a professor who’s gotten a PhD in physics, or sociology, or whatever the case is, and hear a little bit about their story over lunch, that’s a great opportunity to network and build connections.”

The week closed with a “Marketing Me” Workshop hosted by Career Services on Thursday. During this event, students learned about how to use LinkedIn and share their past experiences with the professional world.

Raymond explained that the workshop’s goal is to teach first-generation students to articulate their accomplishments, even those they do not see as important.

“[The goal of this workshop] is trying to encourage [first-generation students] to talk more about their experiences,” Raymond said. “Especially the experiences that they undervalue or they don’t appreciate as much because they don’t feel as though it’s significant. But, everything that they’ve done up until this point is of significance and will continue in their professional development.”

With First-Generation Celebration Week, First@Colgate aimed to celebrate the accomplishments and experiences of Colgate’s first-generation students. First year and first-generation student Ashley Espinal Núñez, who served as a program assistant, hoped this week shed some light on the first-generation experience. 

“I hope that nobody ever diminishes other people’s feelings,” Espinal Núñez said. “We’re all going through different things and undertake them differently. It’s all about learning from your mistakes and growing. Some people definitely have it easier than others, but we’re all here to succeed. No matter where we come from, no matter our income. It’s all about reaching out for help and being assured that you’re not a soldier that was left behind.”