Augie celebrates first-gen students

Feven Zewdu

Augustana College celebrated first-generation students for the first time this past week. The celebration lasted for two days, beginning with a banner signing on Thursday, Nov. 4. On Monday, stickers were passed out in the brew, and a reception in the you belong lounge followed to honor the first-generation students and faculty.

President Steven Bahls opened with a speech that commemorated first-generation students’ strength.

“I can say that there’s an additional layer of pride in those of you who are the first in your family to attend college… We are proud of you,” Bahls said.

There are several resources available for first-generation students that range from academic to social. These resources include the TRIO-SSS program that provides students with mentoring, finding scholarships, and financial literacy. Cultural groups, and the Preparation, Awareness, Community, and Engagement (PACE) program aids first generation students socially, even if both organizations are not exclusively for first-generation students..

First-generation students have differing points of view about what it means to be first generation.

Stephanie Carreno, junior, said college is an avenue to find new opportunities.

“I’m breaking the barrier of what my parents weren’t able to do and being able to do what they wish they could have done,” Carreno said.

Valerie Silva, sophomore, said she can reach her goals and make her family proud.

“[Being a first-generation student means] being able to accomplish something not only for myself but for my family,” Silva said

Silva made the decision to come to Augustana for several reasons. A large part of these reasons is the outreach and strong support system Augustana provides. When the time came to apply for schools, Silva remembered the community she felt here, and thought this campus could be a place she could feel comfortable.

For Carreno, the teaching style was an important aspect as she searched for schools.

“Since I was in middle school, I kind of already had the idea that I wanted to go into education. And so I really enjoyed the way that my teachers taught well, and I really liked their teaching style, and so I felt like Augustana would be a good choice for me,” Carreno said.

According to Kristin Douglas, associate dean of the college, this event is celebrated on Nov. 8 to honor the Higher Education Act of 1965.

The act was put forth by President Lyndon B. Johnson to be inclusive to low-income and underrepresented students.

“We wanted to celebrate the accomplishments of our first-gen students. Their ambition, perseverance, creativity, and intellect make Augustana a better place for everyone,” Douglas said.

According to Douglas, the first-generation student event might experience slight changes next year, including widening the time slot of the event and setting aside time in the evening as well to generate more student attendance.

This celebration highlighted the importance of acknowledging first-gen students by showing appreciation through honoring approximately 450 students.

Erin Williams, the director of annual giving and a member of the advancement team, was part of the committee that coordinated the event. Williams said that this event is a way of showing support to the students.

“We wanted to join with other higher education institutions and celebrate our first-generation students on that day,” Williams said.

In President Bahls’ speech, he closed by remarking on the tenacity of first generation students.

“Anyone who has worked in higher education as long as I have knows that first-generation students almost always come with extra grit, incredible fortitude and an added level of determination,” Bahls said.