Emma Duffy / Gavel Media

First-Gen Week Celebrates First-Generation College Students

Boston College celebrated First-Generation Day with an event brought together by the First-Generation Club of Boston College (FGC) on Friday. The celebration capped off First-Generation Week, which recognizes students who are the first in their families to go to college.

While last year it took place in a small classroom in Stokes, this year’s event took place in The Heights Room. There were small refreshments, coffee and tea, and a cake to celebrate. The event also had poster boards at the front and back of the room where people could take the time to write about being a first-gen student, or if they were not first-gen students themselves, write about how they support first-gen students.

Throughout the week, FGC partnered with the Learning to Learn Office, the Career Center, and other university offices to hold events honoring First-Generation Week, which is celebrated throughout the country. An estimated 25-30 students and 30 alumni participated in these events.

Earlier in the week, FGC organized an event in which students sent home postcards to thank the people that helped them to get where they are. They also hosted a financial aid workshop on Tuesday night, during which financial aid advisers were present to help guide students through the FAFSA.

On Wednesday, in partnership with the Career Center, FGC launched a First-Gen Alum panel for alumni to talk about what it is like to be a first-generation college graduate in the workplace. Thursday night, FGC hosted another alumni panel and dinner to discuss navigating being first-gen students at BC.

After a brunch on Friday morning hosted by the Bowman AHANA and Intercultural Center (BAIC), First-Gen Week concluded on Saturday with BAIC tailgate and recognition of first-generation students at the football game when they were invited to go on the field and help unveil the flag at kickoff.

“All of the events offer different perspectives where the student ones offer a more social perspective whereas the two alumni panels were more about networking and the future after we leave BC,” said FGC co-president Winnie Chan, MCAS '21.

Chan also discussed the importance of last week's celebration for First-Gen students.

“First-Gen Week shows that we have a lot of people rooting for us," Chan said.

Friday's celebration featured a series of speakers, including Jasmine Mahoney of Residential Life, Kelly Saintelus, an alumna of the Learning to Learn Office, University Spokesperson Jack Dunn, and Lynch professor Raquel Muñiz, who all spoke about their experiences as First-Gen students.

Saintelus spoke about the importance of not trivializing the strengths of First-Gen students and of making a concerted effort to acknowledge progress for First-Gen resources on campus.

Hannah Keeser, a graduate assistant at the Learning to Learn Office, planned First-Gen Week in conjunction with the help of the First-Generation Club at BC, The Career Center, University Advancement, and BAIC.

“I like when students come and say that they’ve found something to be useful from the community that they didn’t know was here,” Keeser said. “It’s been great to connect across campus.” 

Both of Keeser’s parents were first-generation college students, and she is grateful for their hard work and the opportunities she has been able to have because of it. 

Angela Zhang, CSOM ‘20, also talked about the collaborative nature of the week.

“We couldn’t have done this on our own," said Zhang. "It’s really nice to have all these groups come together.”

University Spokesperson Jack Dunn spoke about his first-generation experience. He was the first of his family to attend college since his father had dropped out of high school to fight in World War II and his mother was a homemaker. His grandparents and great-grandparents were Irish immigrants and none of them had finished high school, making his graduation from Boston College in 1983 a huge accomplishment.

“I’m proud to be a First-Generation student because I believe in first-gen students and I’m proud of the progress BC has made in creating a more welcoming, supportive environment,” Dunn said. “We still have much more to do, but I’m proud of the progress we have made.”

Zhang commented on how it is great to have higher up members of the BC community sharing their First-Gen story in order to help more students feel like they belong.

“A lot of students don’t know what First-Gen is, even if they are First-Gen, [but] it’s something to be proud of," said Zhang. "There used to be a huge stigma around being First-Gen because people were embarrassed that their parents didn’t go to college. It’s a really beautiful thing, and we hope that more people will be able to celebrate with us and be proud of this invisible identity.”