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 Departments on campus host a week-long series of events, activities, and speakers around November 8th— when the national First Generation Celebration Day, established in 2017, first took place.

About the 2022 First-Gen Celebration

Join us from November 7 - 11, 2022 for our 6th Annual First-Generation College Student Celebration. With more than 15 academic and administrative departments collaborating to put the series of events and programs, the celebration is bigger than ever, and we’re back on campus after two years of remote events! Learn more about first-gen services and experiences, join us for our keynote speaker Dra. Aurora Chang – a once undocumented Guatemalan scholar and author, and have the opportunity to be one of the first to get tickets to a private screening of “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.” We have many great things planned for this year’s celebration!

2022 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.
Monday, November 7
  • First-Gen College Student Celebration Kick-Off
    Join the Suffolk Community as we kick-off the First-Gen College Student Celebration Week with food, shirts, swag, and a panel moderated by our Connect the Dots First-Gen Mentoring Program.
    5:30 - 7 p.m. EST
    Sargent Hall, 5th Floor, Commons
Tuesday, November 8
  • Exploring the World as a First-Gen Student: Study Abroad and Funding for External Opportunities
    Ever wanted to study in another country and see the world but don’t know where to start. Check out this session for more information on opportunities available to first-gen students!
    12:30 - 1:45 p.m. EST
    Sawyer Building, 4th Floor, 401A-B, Stoll Room

  • Board Game Competition with INTO Suffolk
    Come join INTO for some rounds of fun competitive board games and some snacks See you there!
    3 - 5 p.m. EST
    73 Tremont/Stahl Building, 4th Floor, INTO Suffolk Lounge

  • Eastie Farms Volunteer Event
    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.
    2 - 5 p.m. EST
    Register now
Wednesday, November 9
  • Gratitude F1rst: Thanking those who have Supported Our First-Gen Journey
    Stop by to write a letter or thank you note to those individuals who have supported you and encouraged you to never give up on your first-gen journey. Let them know how much you appreciate them and the impact they’ve had on your life!
    12 - 2 p.m. EST
    73 Tremont, Lobby

  • “Unapologetically First-Gen: Authoring Your Own Story” – Virtual Keynote by Dra. Aurora Chang
    Once an undocumented Guatemalan immigrant, Dra. Aurora Chang is a scholar, counter-storyteller, and the author of: “The Struggles of Identity, Education, and Agency in the Lives of Undocumented Students: The Burden of Hyperdocumentation.” She will speak about her experiences as a first-generation immigrant and college student to a hyperdocumented scholar-activist, and the important lessons she has learned navigating the borderlands of culture, the academy, and the self.
    6 - 7:30 p.m. EST
    Virtual - Zoom link
    Meeting ID: 920 4635 0309
    Password: sufirstgen
Thursday, November 10
  • You’re Flipping Fantastic: First-Gen Pancake Breakfast
    Join us for a First-Gen Pancake Breakfast and meet other first-gen students, faculty, and staff at the Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion.
    9 - 11 a.m. EST
    Sawyer Building 828

  • Find and Fund Your Internships for First-Gen Students
    Come learn about the basics of searching for an internship, helpful tips and tricks, and how to access resources at the career center. Potential funding sources for your internship opportunities will also be discussed.
    12:30 - 1:45 p.m. EST
    73 Tremont/Stahl Building, 5th Floor, Room 5055
    Register to Attend

  • 7th Annual Veterans Day Luncheon
    This event is by invite only for the veteran community at Suffolk University.
    12:30 - 1:45 p.m. EST
    Sargent Hall, 5th Floor, Commons

  • Be One of the First to See “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”
    Students who attend first-gen events on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday will have the opportunity to have their names entered for one of 30 tickets to watch “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” the day before its national release! This is a private screening for the group, so students who are selected must be able to be at the movie theatre at least 15 min before the showing to enter at the same time. More details will be provided for those who are selected to participate.
    3 - 5:30 p.m. EST
    AMC Boston Common 19 (175 Tremont St)
Friday, November 11
  • Deciphering the College Going Process as a First-Gen Veteran: Higher Education Benefits and Strategies for Success
    The session is open to any veteran who is interested in learning more about accessing their higher education benefits and better understanding the process. The session will be held virtually.
    9 - 11 a.m. EST
    Virtual – Zoom link
    Meeting ID: 976 7529 1403

2022 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
  • Office of the Dean of Students
  • Black Student Union
  • Orientation, New Student, and Family Programs
  • Office of Public Affairs
  • Office of Marketing & Communications


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.

Share Your Event Ideas

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

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