Campus rally to celebrate first-generation students

Members of the Rider community pose in front of Daly Dining Hall at last year’s “I AM FIRST” generation rally wearing stickers that read “I’M FIRST!”

By Austin Ferguson

Promising to empower participating faculty, staff and students, Rider’s second annual “I AM FIRST” generation rally will commence in front of Daly Dining Hall at 11:30 a.m. on Nov. 8.

The rally, which started on campus in 2017, is part of a national celebration of the accomplishments and skills of first-generation college students across the country, according to The Council for Opportunity in Education (COE). Noting a lack of recognition in the academic capabilities of many first-generation college students, COE started the first-generation walk. Each participating college had a large turnout in its first celebration, being the reason for its return. 

Their mission statement read, “The 2017 First-Generation College Celebration was such a success, the (COE) and the Center for First-Generation Student Success of NASPA-Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education have decided to make it an annual event.”

The date of the rally and other participating events had significance. 

According to the COE website, “In partnership with the Center for First-generation Student Success of NASPA-Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, asked college access and success professionals to join with TRIO programs across the country for the First Annual First-Generation College Celebration on November 8, 2017 — the Anniversary of the Higher Education Act.”

The rally is run by Rider’s TRIO on-campus coordinators in the Student Support Services (SSS) and Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement programs. TRIO was established to assist students from disadvantaged backgrounds in the United States and played an important role in broadening opportunities for first-generation college students.

“The concept of first-generation students was introduced into federal policy by the TRIO community in 1980 during passage of the Higher Education Amendments to the Higher Education Act of 1965,” said Assistant Director of the SSS program, Dana Lopes. “TRIO educators, such as the SSS and McNair programs at Rider continue to be called upon to highlight the return on the investment our country receives from providing first-generation students with an opportunity to reach their full potential through college.” 

“I take great pride in being a first-generation student,” said sophomore elementary education major Julio Gonzalez. “It is a clear measure of my accomplishments and how hard I worked to get where I am now.”

The event will feature student testimonials, recorded congratulations from members of U.S. Congress and conclude with a walk around the campus mall in celebration of first-generation students that attend Rider. 

“The day is one of celebration,” Lopes said. “We honor the capabilities, gifts and vast contributions to society of first-generation college students.” 

The COE suggested multiple ways for campuses to contribute to the celebration of first-generation students outside of the rallies that institutions like Rider are putting on. 

Examples included holding panel discussions with first-generation students and faculty talking to trustees, administration and faculty who were first-generation college students themselves. 

The Center for First-Generation Student Success (NASPA) encouraged students to promote the celebration on social media with the #CelebrateFirstGen hashtag, with the purpose of communicating with other first-generation students on a national level. 

“We encourage colleges and universities to celebrate the success of first-generation college students, faculty and staff on your campus in any and every ways possible,” the NASPA announcement for the event said. “Get creative.”

The rain date for the rally is Nov. 13. 


Published in the 10/31/18 edition. 

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