Elon University's 2020 First-Generation College Celebration

Oscar Miranda M.Ed., Elon University / The Center / January 12, 2021

Since launching its first-generation initiative in August 2019, Elon University has been committed to supporting, empowering, and celebrating the first-generation identity on campus. This past fall, Elon University participated in the national 2020 First-Generation College Celebration and it was a huge success. This year’s celebration lasted four days, and it engaged first-generation college students, faculty, staff, and advocates. Due to COVID-19, Elon’s 2020 First-Generation College Celebration was held virtually.

The celebration kicked-off with a First-Generation Awards Ceremony that recognized first-generation college students, faculty/staff members, and advocates. During the ceremony, first-generation college students were recognized for their hard work and achievements, and faculty/staff members and advocates received recognition for their dedicated support and contributions to the first-generation student community. Also announced during the ceremony was this year’s Robert and Ann Hamby First-Generation Student Experience Fund award recipient. This award was presented to one first-generation college student who identifies as a student of color and looks forward to carrying out one of the five Elon Experiences. These include undergraduate research, leadership, service and civic engagement, internships, and global engagement. The event concluded with a special announcement that a new rainy-day fund would be established to support first-generation college students. Starting next year, this fund will financially support students’ unexpected expenses that may arise while at Elon.

The following day, the celebration continued on social media, where students participated in an all-day event promoting the first-generation identity. That day, first-generation college students who engaged with our social media platforms had the opportunity to win new first-generation promotional items including pens, buttons, shirts, and snacks. College student engagement was phenomenal, and even first-generation high school students participated. The day concluded with the unveiling of a new logo that was created by students and voted by the first-generation community to be our new first-generation initiative logo.

On the third day, Elon hosted a first-generation college student panel. Those in attendance heard the panelists share their experiences navigating college as first-generation college students. Topics covered during this event included parental support, words of wisdom to incoming first-generation students, and overall experiences. The audience then had the chance to ask panelists questions.

The celebration concluded with a fireside chat with Dr. Anthony Abraham Jack, assistant professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Author of the highly acclaimed book, The Privileged Poor: How Elite Universities are Failing Disadvantaged Students, Dr. Jack spoke about first-generation college students, the challenges they encounter, and the support systems they can use to find success. After the discussion, members of the Elon community had the opportunity to ask Dr. Jack questions.

For the second year in a row, Elon University has participated in the national First-Generation College Celebration. Making all this possible was Elon University’s selection as a 2020 First-Generation College Celebration Grant recipient. Thanks to the generous support of the Council for Opportunity in Education (COE), the Center for First-Generation Student Success, and The Suder Foundation, these funds allowed Elon to raise awareness around the first-generation identity and celebrate the first-generation community’s accomplishments.

For more information on Elon University’s approach, please visit their website here.