Celebrating HSU’s First-Generation Students

Humboldt State University will join thousands of college campuses across the nation in the First-Generation College Celebration on Friday, Nov. 8, 12:30-3 p.m. in the Kate Buchanan Room (KBR).

Hosted by the HSU TRIO programs, the annual event is designed to empower, connect, and foster excitement for students’ future.

In 2016, the Council for Opportunity in Education and the Center for First-generation Student Success launched the inaugural First-Generation College Celebration. The 2019 event marks the second year that HSU has participated in the nationwide celebration. November 8 was chosen to honor the anniversary of the signing of the Higher Education Act in 1965.

According to the Executive Director of EOP & TRIO programs, Dan Saveliff, 52% of HSU’s currently enrolled students are first-generation, an increase of 11% over the past 10 years. TRIO programs are active on campus and in our local schools to support first-generation—those who are the first in their family to attend college— and low-income students through academic advising, personal/career counseling, tutorial support, and orientation courses geared towards college-readiness.

“The first-generation path is often accompanied with questions and self-doubt,” says Saveliff. “If a student is thinking or questioning whether they ‘can’ or ‘can’t’, the answer is always that they can. It’s just a matter of how.”

The primary coordinator for the event is Gema Quiroz-Torres, the Academic Services Coordinator for the TRIO Upward Bound program. She says that to help first-generation and other students envision their future, the event will feature four first-generation speakers including a faculty member, a current graduate student, a recent HSU graduate, and a current HSU student.

“We want students to know they’re not alone,” explains Quiroz-Torres. The speakers will share their own education journeys and explain how they overcame challenges to achieve their goals.

“Several campus departments that directly support students, including Peer Health Educators, Student Health & Wellbeing Services, Cultural Centers for Academic Excellence, Academic and Career Advising Center, the Learning Center, and the Office of Financial Aid will be involved so that students can get acquainted with these important resources,” says Liz Silver, the Administrative Support Coordinator at EOP/SSS and a co-coordinator in planning this year’s activities.

To empower first-generation students in their education, TRIO personnel have been capturing a series of video testimonials that feature students and faculty who are also first-generation. “I think students will be surprised to see stories that are like their own,” says Silver. As part of the celebration, HSU students, staff, and faculty will have the opportunity to tell their own story through videos and photos shared on social media.

In addition to offering resources and services to first-generation students on campus, Saveliff and his staff are actively involved with fostering college success at the 6th-12th grade level through the federally-funded TRIO programs.

“It’s the pipeline for students in our local community,” explains Saveliff. “We steer students toward resources they might not have otherwise been aware or taken advantage of. It’s all about mentorship and thousands of students are impacted.”

In anticipation of the event, HSU staff and faculty who were first-generation college students are encouraged to “tell their story”:https://forms.gle/q4pdqcqSCTmNWSku7 and also indicate how they would like to participate in the First-Generation College Celebration.

For more information, contact Gema Quiroz-Torres at the HSU Upward Bound Office at 707-826-3558 or trioub@humboldt.edu.

This story was originally published Nov. 1.