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 2021 First-Gen Celebration

Join us from November 8th through the 12th for our 5th Annual First-Generation College Student Celebration. With 15 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 Samantha Ramirez-Herrera, and/or grab some breakfast on campus, these are only a few of the activities we have planned for this year’s celebration!

2021 First-Gen Celebration Week Events 

Week-Long Initiatives

  • Sawyer Library First-Generation Celebration Display
    Mildred F. Sawyer Library - 73 Tremont, 2nd Floor
    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.

  • Suffolk Cares Donation Drive
    Bins Located Around Campus
    CCE is holding a donation drive on behalf of Suffolk CARES Pantry in honor of Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Month from November 1-30. Suffolk CARES is looking for non-perishable food items.

  • Sawyer Library First-Generation Celebration Donation
    Donation Bin at Sawyer 824
    CCE is holding a donation drive on behalf of On The Rise in honor of Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Month from November 1-17. On the Rise is looking for full/travel size toiletries, socks, and winter gear (hats/scarves/gloves).

Monday, November 8, 2021

  • Building Wealth as a First-Generation Professional
    1:00 p.m. - 2:00 p.m. EST
    Register now

  • Fresh Truck Volunteer Event
    3:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. EST
    Maverick Sq, East Boston (Meet 2:15 p.m. at 8 Ashburton, 1st Floor Lobby)
    Fresh Truck is an organization created to "rethink the traditional grocery store model, to make it mobile and bring food closer to people that need it the most." As a volunteer, you will be directly supporting their cause by filling and bagging shopper orders, greeting and handing out tickets, helping customers enter and exit the bus, restocking shelves, breaking cardboard all while maintaining all health and safety protocols.

  • First Gen Alumni Discuss Cracking the Code - Hybrid Panel
    5:00 p.m. - 6:15 p.m. EST
    Hybrid - Sargent Hall, 1st Floor, Room 17.
    Register now

  • First-Generation Celebration Hybrid Keynote with Speaker Samantha Ramirez-Herrera
    6:30 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. EST
    Hybrid - TBD
    Register now

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

  • Take Advantage - Tabling Event
    11:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. EST
    Sawyer Lobby
    Stop by to learn about the new Take Advantage Program and grab some swag. Learn about all the departments and services that are available to help you make your time at Suffolk a success.

  • 6th Annual Veterans Day Luncheon
    12:15 p.m. - 1:30 p.m. EST
    Sargent Hall Function Room
    You are cordially invited to the 6th annual Veterans Day Luncheon with special guest Robert Santiago (Commissioner of Veterans Services for the City of Boston). This event is by invite only for the veteran community at Suffolk University.

  • Crafting a Syllabus for First-Generation Students - Faculty Workshop
    12:30 p.m. - 1:30 p.m. EST
    Register now

  • Hand in Hand - Support Space By and For All First-Gen Students & S’Mores
    12:00 p.m. - 1:00 p.m. EST
    Sawyer Room 828
    Students will meet to discuss the definition of success as first gen students. We will open conversation to moving beyond societal definitions of it to understanding the value of our work and embracing our true passions - rather affirming that we are worthy of it. And make s'mores!

  • Eastie Farms Volunteer Event
    4:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m. EST
    East Boston (Meet 3:15 p.m. at 8 Ashburton, 1st Floor Lobby)
    Eastie Farms is dedicated to pursuing climate justice, improving food access, and fostering community resilience through the development of interactive urban agricultural spaces and environmental education programs. Eastie Farms is a grassroots effort by the people of Boston to enjoy gardening and growing food as a community while being eco-friendly.

  • First-Gen Alums Discuss Community Building - Hybrid Panel
    5:00 p.m. - 6:15 p.m. EST
    Hybrid - Sargent Hall, 1st Floor, Room 170
  • First-Generation Academic Resources - Virtual Parent Information Session
    7:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. EST
    Register now

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

  • First-Gen Breakfast: We Flipping Think You're Amazing
    9:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m. EST
    Sawyer Building 828
    Join us for a First-Gen Pancake Breakfast while learning everything you need to know about navigating Financial Aid & Scholarships.

  • Panel with On the Rise (Women Transitioning out of Homelessness)
    3:30 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. EST
    Register now

  • Paulist Center Volunteer Event for Take-Out-Style Meals
    3:30 p.m. - 5:15 p.m. EST
    Boston, MA (Meet 3:15 p.m. at 8 Ashburton, 8th Floor)
    The Paulist Center community includes individuals and families from around the greater Boston area who gather to collaborate with them in their mission and ministry in the church and in our daily lives. As volunteers, you will be helping staff continue their take-out-style meals at the front doors of the church.

Friday, November 12, 2021

  • INTO Suffolk & CIPS Volunteer Day Event - Hybrid
    9:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m. EST
    Hybrid - INTO Suffolk Lounge (73 Tremont, 4th Floor)
    Register now

2021 First Gen Celebration Participating Units

  • Center for Academic Access and Opportunity
  • Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion
  • Division of Student Success
  • Center for Community Engagement
  • Mildred F. Sawyer Library
  • SU Black Alumni Network
  • Office of Institutional Advancement
  • Center for Career Equity, Development, and Success
  • Diversity, Access, and Inclusion
  • Student Affairs – Veteran Services
  • Center for Teaching and Scholarly Excellence
  • Student Financial Services
  • Suffolk Law School
  • Undergraduate Admissions
  • INTO Suffolk


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

In 2020, the First-Gen celebration took on a hybrid approach. Seven units and administrative departments collaborated with CAAO to put together programming for the week. This ensured that the celebration’s visibility was expanded significantly, and many more faculty, students, staff and alumni participated in the events. Given the pandemic, the 2021 celebration offered several events where students were allowed to share their struggles and successes during the difficult year. Programming was also developed to help students think about personal branding in the new virtual world. The virtual keynote by Saul Flores saw him sharing his experiences of taking a journey of 5,328 miles from South America to the US to better understand the struggle and resilience of immigrants who do the same. Overall, the themes of the 2021 celebration were grounded in persistence, grit, resilience, and perseverance; qualities our first-gen population knows well.

About the 2022 Celebration

If you are interested in proposing an event/activity/workshop, for the 2022 First-Generation Celebration, please fill out the form below.


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

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