CNM Hosts Event to Celebrate First-generation Students
Alaina Africano, Central New Mexico Community College / The Center / December 15, 2022
50 percent of Central New Mexico Community College's (CNM’s) students identify as first-generation, so it’s critical they feel a sense of community at all our campuses. To ensure this happens, TRIO Student Support Services has provided first-generation students with one-on-one tutoring, personal counseling, college success workshops, and other academic support services since 2001. Now, CNM TRIO is focusing on developing an even more robust culture of belonging for our first-generation students.
With the help of the First-Generation College Celebration grant, CNM and TRIO took an important step toward this goal through the inaugural First-Generation Celebration on December 1. At the event, CNM’s first-gen students were invited to enjoy a free lunch, hear from first-gen speakers, and participate in a mentor mixer.
First-gen guest speakers included CNM alumnus and entrepreneur Andy Lim, CNM’s Executive Director of DEI Felecia Caton-Garcia, and CNM’s Director of Facilities Services Mary Scanlan. These speakers shared their experiences as first-gen students, along with the impact education had on their lives.
This celebration gave first-gen students the opportunity to talk with the right people in a welcoming environment.
CNM President Tracy Hartzler also spoke at the celebration. Although she is not a first-generation student, she talked about the barriers first-gen students often face, and thanked them for living out CNM’s value of courage.
“As a first-generation student, I know that it takes courage to show up everyday,” President Hartzler said. “Thank you for living courageously and taking the first steps towards completing your education here at CNM.”
All the speeches focused on themes including resilience, determination, and strength for first-gen students. Felecia Caton-Garcia said she is dedicated to making CNM a place where first-gen students not only survive but also thrive.
“My job now is to make our voices the heart of campus,” Felecia said.
This sentiment was echoed when students participated in a mentor mixer where they could ask questions and talk about their shared experiences as first-gen students.
As a first-generation student, I know that it takes courage to show up everyday. Thank you for living courageously and taking the first steps towards completing your education here at CNM.
For Robyn Spano, a first-gen student at CNM and TRIO office assistant, the celebration was the perfect way to help students make the connections they need to succeed.
“It’s intimidating to be a first-gen student,” Robyn says. “You don’t have any role models to ask about what to expect as a college student or help you with things like financial aid. This celebration gave first-gen students the opportunity to talk with the right people in a welcoming environment.”
Ultimately, the celebration provided a framework for how to better celebrate our first-gen students and inspired CNM to create more spaces for first-gen students to connect with other first-gen alumni, employees, and community partners..
As CNM looks to the future, the college is excited to continue celebrating and showcasing the achievements of first-gen students as yet another way to cultivate a deeper culture of belonging and connectedness on campus.
Central New Mexico Community College's 2022 First-Generation College Celebration was made possible by a $500 grant from the Center for First-generation Student Success and the Council for Opportunity in Education. Learn more about their celebration here!