MOSES LAKE — Big Bend Community College TRiO Upward Bound and TRIO Student Support Services honored its first-generation students and graduates during a virtual celebration Monday evening, marking National First-Generation College Celebration Day.
First-Generation Day is celebrated on college campuses across the country each November as a way to recognize the success of first-generation students as well as the contributions made on respective campuses by first-generation faculty and staff. The annual celebration was started in 2017 by the Council for Opportunity in Education and the Center for First-Generation Student Success.
This was Big Bend’s first campus-wide celebration in honor of First-Generation Celebration Day.
“Why the celebration? It shows our first-generation college students that they are worthy of celebrating, that they are not alone, and that there are resources and support available,” said Big Bend TRiO Upward Bound Director Anita De Leon. “The term ‘first-generation’ is more than a label or a status. We want our future and current first-generation college students to know that we see them through an asset-based lens.”
De Leon said it was also important to bring awareness to some of the challenges first-generation students face, as well as to highlight the success stories of Big Bend staff who are first-generation college graduates themselves.
During the event, attendees got to hear from several current college staff members about the unique struggles they faced being the first in their families to attend college and some of the strategies they used to overcome those struggles. Attendees also heard from Big Bend President Dr. Sara Thompson Tweedy, who shared her father’s story of being a first-generation student.
Motivational speaker Carlos Ojeda Jr. also addressed the group, and told his story of being the first in his family to receive a college degree. He shared how he was constantly told he would never amount to anything, and how a hearing impairment led to him often being labeled as a trouble maker or unwilling to learn in the classroom.
However, he eventually met a school counselor who believed in him. That person never gave up on him, and ultimately pushed him to go on a college campus visit, take the SAT’s and apply for college.
Ojeda encouraged students to go beyond what they’ve been labeled by others and define their own success.
“Someone has to break that barrier in your family, in your friendships and in your community,” said Ojeda.
Watch the video below to hear from Big Bend Community College staff members about their experiences as first-generation college students: