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The Columbia Chronicle

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The Columbia Chronicle

We've got you covered

The Columbia Chronicle

First-Gen Day celebrated at Student Center

Paper graduation hats were laid around a table for first generation college students to decorate and write on, mentioning their goals for the futer and what keeps them going. The event for first generation students was held on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2023 at the Student Center located at 754 S. Wabash Ave. (Abra Richardson )

First Gen Day, a national day meant to recognize students who are the first in their family to attend college, was celebrated on campus through an event at the Student Center on Nov. 8.

The event, which is planned by staff members from different offices around the college, first started in November 2021, said Director of Student Persistence Rachel Horton.

The number of first-generation students at Columbia is large and increasing. According to Horton, 50% of transfer students and 57% of the incoming class are first generation. “With us having such a large population, we make sure we honor them,” she said.

The event was also a chance for students to “take up space” and have fun, said Chloe Nailor, Coordinator of Equitable Student Success. “We can’t be all work,” she said. “We have to enjoy ourselves and celebrate.”

Held at the first and second floors of the Student Center, and the event featured organizations such as TRIO, Student Diversity and Inclusion, the Scholars Project, and a 360-degree photo booth. The second floor featured a DJ, balloons, food and paper graduation caps with questions such as “What Keeps You Going?” which were filled out by attendees in marker.

Celines Jimenez, a first-year traditional animation major said she was curious about the event. “I was like, ‘Oh, this looks interesting. This looks fun.’ I want to meet other people who were actually also first generation.”

Jimenez said she is supported by friends and family. Her motivation is “wanting to actually graduate. To show that, it’s actually possible that it can be done, it can be completed. Yes, there are some ups and downs some struggles, some walls, but it can work,” she said.

Jorge Molina Jr., a junior graphic design major, said that the event was a unique experience. “I’ve never really had a school branch out and say hey, cheers for being the first one,” he said.

“I have always been told in my life that school is important. So, it was cool to be able to push myself to make sure that I am studying and working towards the goal that I want,” Molina said.

Nailor said that first-generation students should attend events like these to know that they are not alone in their journeys. “We want them to know there’s a big group of students and staff here that have been through what they’re going through or are just ready to listen to them and hear them express themselves and help them along the way,” she said.

Looking into the future, Nailor said that an additional event for first-generation students will take place in the spring, with the date to be determined.

Horton said that sometimes first-generation students, specifically from underrepresented communities are overlooked for their deficiencies rather than the strengths they bring. “I hope that higher education as a whole, grows to a better job of understanding that first-gen students,” she said. ” It’s an honor to have them here.”

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About the Contributors
Uriel Reyes, Reporter
ureyes@columbiachronicle.com   Uriel Reyes is a sophomore music performance major, minoring in journalism. He primarily covers the Muesum of Contemporary Photography, and the Dance and Theatre Departments. Reyes has also written student spotlight articles and film reviews. He joined the Chronicle in January 2023.   Hometown: Chicago, Illinois
Abra Richardson, Senior Photojournalist
arichardson@columbiachronicle.com   Abra Richardson is a senior photojournalism major and has covered Chicago music festivals, fashion and metro protests. She joined the Chronicle in August 2021.   Hometown: Palatine, Illinois