First Generation College Student Celebration

To celebrate students, faculty, and staff who are the first in their families to go to college, the Center for Academic Access and Opportunity, in collaboration with the Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion, the Division of Student Success, and other academic and administrative Departments on campus host a week-long series of events, activities, and speakers around November 8th – the national First Generation Celebration Day – established in 2017.

The 2020 First-Gen Celebration

Join us from November 9th through the 14th for our 4th Annual First-Generation College Student Celebration. With seven academic and administrative departments collaborating to put the series of events and programs, the celebration is bigger than ever! Learn more about first-gen services and experiences, join us for our keynote speaker Saul Flores, and/or grab a snack on campus, these are only a few of the activities we have planned for this year’s celebration!


Mildred F. Sawyer Library – 73 Tremont, 2nd Floor

November 8th is National First-Generation College Celebration Day, but at Suffolk we celebrate for a whole week! Check out the library display throughout the week to learn more about our First-Generation community along with a curated collection of books for and about First-Generation college students.

Monday, November 9 – 10:00am-12:00pm EST

Zoom Link:

Join the staff from the Center for Academic Access and Opportunity and the Division of Student Success to learn more about the various programs, spaces, and resources available to first-gen students on campus including the McNair Scholars graduate preparation program and the Connect the Dots mentoring program.

Monday, November 9 – 12:00-1:00pm EST

Zoom Link:

Join the Center for Career Education and Professional Development to learn how to start building a professional network of mentors, peers and future employers during this time of remote interactions and virtual engagement.

Tuesday, November 10 – 6:00-7:30pm EST

Zoom Link:

Zoom ID: 846 1376 5732
Password: Suffolk

Join the First-Gen Planning Committee to learn about Saul Flores's life-changing experience walking 5,328 miles through ten countries to document how grueling and dangerous the journey of immigrants to the US can be, and about the value of servant leadership, philanthropy, and service learning.

Thursday, November 12 – 9:00-11:00am EST

Sawyer Building, 8 Ashburton – 4th Floor, Stoll Room

Join the Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion for an assortment of bagels, coffee, chocolate milk, juice, pastries, and granola bars before heading to class or to your next meeting! The Stoll room offers plenty of space to adhere to social distancing guidelines so drop by and grab a snack!.

Thursday, November 12 – 1:00-2:00pm EST

Eventbrite Registration

Join Veteran Services and the university community to celebrate our student veterans. Hear from a panel of undergraduate, graduate, and law school Suffolk University veterans and invited speaker Major General Robert G. Catalanotti.

Friday, November 13 – 12:00-1:00pm EST

Zoom Link:

Join the Education Department and the Center for Academic Access and Opportunity for a panel on the stories and successes of first-generation faculty, staff, students, and alumni from the Suffolk community. Dr. Michael Siegel, Associate Professor, Education Department will provide some data on first-gen students and moderate the panel.

Saturday, November 14 – 11:00am EST

Join the Tres Golpe Podcast founders during this Instagram live event as they discuss their "100k Degree for 30k Income" episode, the high costs of higher education, and their experiences as first-gen college students in the U.S. Make sure to listen to the podcast at the link above before the event! 

Listen to the Podcast and join the event @tresgolpepodcast

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
  • Jennifer Blakely, Head of Access Services, Mildred F. Sawyer Library
  • Michael Siegel, Associate Professor, Education Department
  • Carmen Veloria, Associate Professor & Chair, Education Department


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.

History of 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.” See photos from the event.

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!

See Suffolk University’s celebration events recognized by NASPA

About the 2021 Celebration

If you are interested in proposing an event/activity/workshop, for the 2021 First-Generation Celebration, please fill out the form below.

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Propose an Event for the First-Gen Celebration