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Celebrating the trailblazers who are first-gen college students

Northwestern’s “I’m First” week of campus programming and awards leads up to National First-Generation College Celebration on Nov. 8

“I’m First” week at Northwestern is underway with a celebration of the stories and accomplishments of those in the University community who are first-generation college students. From students just beginning their college journeys to Northwestern President Michael Schill, first-gen individuals play an integral role in campus life.

The week of programming, hosted by Student Enrichment Services (SES), highlights the experiences of students whose parents did not graduate from a four-year college or university. At Northwestern, more than 300 first-gen students represent about 15% of this fall’s entering class.

SES partners with students who are first-generation, lower-income and/or DACA/undocumented. The week’s programming, part of a larger, year-long initiative led by SES associate director Mayra Garces, is just one example of the office’s campus-wide partnerships and advocacy as it strives to build a more inclusive campus community.

“Northwestern’s first-generation students, staff and faculty represent the best of the University,” said Sharitza Rivera, senior director of SES. “Every student deserves access to support, resources and community to make the most of their time at Northwestern. Without parents who paved the way, our first-gen individuals had unique obstacles to becoming Wildcats. SES is dedicated to celebrating our these students because our team knows from personal experience that graduating from college has an impact on ourselves and the communities we came from.”

At Northwestern, more than 300 first-gen students represent about 15% of this fall’s entering class.

The full slate of activities and events runs through Nov. 8, which is also the annual National First-Generation College Celebration. Programming includes two different swag pick-ups around campus, a faculty and student mixer hosted with associate professor Myrna Garcia and a career workshop with Northwestern Career Advancement.

The week culminates in the “I’m First” celebration on Nov. 8 with food, speakers and awards at the Segal Visitor Center. Associate professor Mesmin Destin, who serves as faculty director of student access and enrichment, will deliver a keynote address on the role of community in the success of BIPOC and first-gen college students. The evening ends with the Black Poet Society’s spoken word performance and the inaugural presentation of the I’m First: Trailblazer Award and the I’m First: Faculty Advocate Award.

Visit Student Enrichment Services to see a complete calendar of “I’m First” week programming. The site also details how to nominate an undergraduate student (by Sunday, Nov. 5) for the Trailblazer Award and how to connect with other first-gen faculty and staff members.