First Generation College Student Celebration

Currently planning the 2020 First-Generation College Student Celebration. It will be held from Friday, November 6 through Friday, November 13, 2020. If you have an event to propose or add to our calendar for the week, please use the form below to submit information!


The concept of “First Generation College Student” was first introduced into federal policy by the TRIO community in the 1980s during the passage of the Higher Education Amendments to the Higher Education Act of 1965. The TRIO programs had been instituted by US Congress to provide educational access and opportunity to students who were the first in their immediate family to enter college for a bachelor’s degree (thereafter referred to as “First Generation College Students”) and from other marginalized groups in secondary and post-secondary education, including low socio economic status and disability.

On November 8, 2017, the Council for Opportunity in Education – an advocacy organization for the Federal TRIO Programs – and the newly created Center for First Generation Student Success – developed by the NASPA professional organization – launched the inaugural First-Generation College Celebration! The date was chosen to coincide with the 52th anniversary of the signing of the Higher Education Act of 1965 which established support for this student population through the TRIO programs. The intent was to celebrate the achievements of first-generation college students and allow institutions around the US to shed light on issues that they might face, develop initiatives to support them, and ensure their continued success.

First-Generation Celebrations at Suffolk

The Center for Academic Access and Opportunity (CAAO) held the first First-Generation College Student Celebration on November 8, 2017. The event was well-attended and fueled a tradition at Suffolk to celebrate first-gen success each year.

On November 8, 2018, the CAAO held the second annual First-Generation College Student Celebration. The university community was invited to take part in the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the “First Generation Conference Room” in the CAAO 7025 Suite at 73 Tremont St, 7th Floor. The space was dedicated with a plaque on the conference room door that reads: “In honor and recognition of all first-generation college students whose perseverance and resilience grants them the unique ability to change the world.” Photos from the event available here

In 2019, the CAAO joined forces with the Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion, as well as the Division of Student Success and the Education Department. The celebration was expanded significantly and included a series of events each day of the week culminating a large celebration on Friday, November 8, 2019. Over the course of the week, students, faculty, and staff were able to access various offices on campus to receive pins that said “I’m F1rst” and learn about their offerings for first-generation students. The Education Department hosted a panel discussion with Dr. Michael J. Siegel author of “First-Generation College Students: Understanding and Improving the Experience from Recruitment to Commencement.” The final event included a signing station for individuals to share a bit of their personal narratives and saw Suffolk first-generation alumni come back to share words of advice with current students. Overall, it was the largest celebration yet!

Check out Suffolk University’s Celebration events recognized on the NASPA website

About the 2020 Celebration

For 2020, we plan to continue the tradition. The planning has already started, and we encourage other academic departments and student services units around campus to take part in the celebration. Given the pandemic, all events will be taking place virtually, but that only means we may have the ability to include more programming over the course of our celebration week!

The celebration will kick off on Friday, November 6th with a national event. Suffolk University will host its own series of events, workshops, and activities geared towards the first-generation community for the week after spanning Monday, November 9th through Friday, November 13th.

2020 First Generation Celebration Planning Committee:

  • Abe Peña-Talamantes, Director, Center for Academic Access & Opportunity
  • Bea Patiño, Director, Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion
  • Stephannie Barboza, Assistant Director, Undergraduate Academic Advising Center
  • Alina Choo, Managing Director, Division of Student Success

If you are interested in proposing an event/activity/workshop, please fill out the form below:

Required fields are marked with an asterisk (*)
Propose an Event for the First-Gen Celebration