Texarkana College’s 2022 First-Generation College Celebration

Institutions and education agencies nationwide participated in First-Generation College Celebration Day to highlight the achievements of students, educators, and alumni who are the first members of their families to pursue college degrees and to encourage this critical and resilient population to continue thriving.

Pictured: Cami Lisko, Ashlee Carter, Alyssa Griffin, Dae’Jah Heath, and Olivia Martinez

Texarkana, Texas—On Tuesday, November 8, Texarkana College recognized National First-Generation College Celebration Day at a luncheon hosted by TC’s TRIO programs staff who recognized students who are the first members of their families to earn college degrees. Dr. Tonja Mackey, Dean of Library and Learning Support, said eighty-five first-gen students, faculty, and staff attended the luncheon.

“The luncheon celebrated first-generation college students who enroll in college to build a brighter future for themselves and the next generation,” said Dr. Mackey. “Although the odds are stacked against them, these students work diligently to overcome barriers and earn a higher education credential.”

Dr. Mackey said TC faculty and staff were also recognized at the luncheon.

“So many members of TC’s faculty and staff work daily to make sure first-gen students have the information and resources they need to successfully navigate the college experience,” said Dr. Mackey. “I especially want to thank the staff of TC’s TRIO Education Opportunity Center (EOC) program who provide opportunities and scholarships for first-gen students to help them achieve their educational goals.”

The luncheon featured a panel discussion featuring six first-gen students.

In the panel photo from Left to Right are Joel Albert, Javon Butler, Maria Collins, Derek Murphy Jr., Dae’Jah Heath, and Ashley

“To honor our students, each TRIO program, Talent Search, Educational Opportunity Center, and Student Support Services, selected two students to serve on a panel discussion, led by Tenequa Martin, Director of the TC Educational Opportunity Center,” said Dr. Mackey. “Each of the students brilliantly told their stories, and we were so proud of their willingness to share their struggles, successes, and dreams.

EOC staff also presented the annual EOC Overcoming Barriers Scholarships and honored TC employee, Tiffany Copeland, as the 2022 recipient of the EOC Community Partner Award.

The first national First-Generation College Celebration Day occurred in 2017 when the nonprofit Council for Opportunity in Education (COE) encouraged institutions nationwide on or around November 8 to celebrate first-generation college students or graduates.

“First-generation students have repeatedly demonstrated that supporting and encouraging promising students, often low-income, whose parents never went to college, is one of the great investments our country can make,” said COE President Maureen Hoyler. “Their success stories are worth celebrating.”

COE selected November 8 to honor the anniversary of the signing of the Higher Education Act (HEA) of 1965. This landmark legislation emerged as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty. It ushered in programs, particularly the Federal TRIO programs, necessary for postsecondary access, retention, and completion for low-income, potential first-generation college graduates. The HEA provides funding for the federal TRIO programs that serve lower-income, first-generation college students.

Now the nationwide celebration is carried out by scores of institutions nationwide. COE, in partnership with NASPA’s Center for First-generation Student Success, encourages events such as panel discussions, open houses, and student rallies to celebrate the achievements of first-generation college-goers and also provides approximately $25,000 in grant awards to assist organizations in hosting their local celebrations.

Research shows that students whose parents do not have a college degree are far less likely to enroll than those whose parents graduated from college, according to the Indicators of Higher Education Equity in the U.S.: 2022 Historical Trend Report. The report showed that 93 percent of the children of college graduates enroll in college within eight years of high school graduation, while just 72 percent of students from families in which neither parent holds a college degree enroll within eight years of high school graduation. (Equity Indicator 1h(I))

Many well-known and successful Americans across professions and industries were once first-generation students, among them Academy Award-winning actress Viola Davis, best-selling author Sarah Smarsh, journalist Wil Haygood, and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Many of them are alumni of the Federal TRIO programs.

For more information about First-Generation College Celebration Day, click here.

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