Cal Poly celebrated first-generation students on Nov. 8 at the inaugural celebration for first-gen students on campus.

“We have a lot of things that are kind of against us and it’s kind of hard to even go to a four-year university or any higher education in that case,” political science sophomore Adrian Torres said. “To be first-gen is a really great thing because you’re kind of breaking down that barrier and you get to go on to higher education regardless of all the hardships that you’ve had.”

Dawin Whiten, an academic advisor with the Mustang Success Center, said the Center for First-generation Student Success was encouraging colleges and universities nationwide to participate in celebrating first-gen students.

“I was wondering, you know, why doesn’t Cal Poly do something like that to honor first-gen students and provide an opportunity for them to interact with other students, faculty and staff that identify as first-gen,” Whiten said.

Video by Felix Castillo

The celebration was organized by Whiten, Ethny Stewart and Nelitza Morales of TRIO Achievers, Kari Howell of Cal Poly Scholars and Ana Cabezas of Campus Health and Wellbeing. The committee worked closely with counselors and the Educational Opportunity Program office to make the event possible. 

“I myself am a first generation student,” Howell said. “And I just love the idea that we can celebrate first-gen [students] and provide some additional resources and love and support for an invisible facet of diversity.”

The event featured several resource booths of campus programs or accommodations, many which focus on helping students who identify as first-gen.

Programs like TRIO Achievers, the Mustang Success Center, Cal Poly Career Connections, the Dream Center, CalFresh and the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority and Underrepresented Student Participation in STEM (LSAMP) program set up booths around the University Union plaza. There was also a postcard writing station for students to send a “thank you” message to a supporter and a check-in booth with first-gen swag.

“People shouldn’t think that we’re just like these needy students, we actually do need these things because we lack certain aspects that normal students do have,” biochemistry senior and TRIO achiever Ashley Calloway said.

Throughout the three hours of the event, students were given pamphlets detailing resources available to them on campus and interacted with other first-gen students attending the celebration.

“I think it’s important to have celebrations like these because it really brings the community of first generation students together and just helps everyone meet people just like them, and not thinking you’re the only one who did it,” sociology freshman Daniel Vizcarra said.

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