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Embracing the Journey: Celebrating First-Generation College Students at UNC Charlotte

Briana Wilson, The University of North Carolina at Charlotte / The Center / June 18, 2024

The University of North Carolina at Charlotte first-gen appreciation day

On April 18, 2024, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNC Charlotte) hosted a remarkable event that brought together over 300 First-Generation college students to celebrate their unique journeys and achievements. The inaugural First-Generation Appreciation Day was a vibrant affair filled with connection activities, delicious food, and plenty of fun. This event highlighted the university’s commitment to supporting and recognizing the vital contributions of First-Generation students to the campus community.

Being a First-Generation college student at UNC Charlotte is a profound accomplishment. It signifies a trailblazing spirit and an unwavering commitment to education and self-improvement. These students often navigate the complexities of higher education without the direct experience or guidance from family members who have navigated the same path. This journey involves unique challenges but also brings a host of invaluable experiences and skills.

At UNC Charlotte, we’ve hosted a variety of First-Generation events and programming including First-Generation Week in November and First-Generation Graduation Celebration twice a year, for our graduating students. These events have led to increased engagement and a deeper sense of belonging here on campus. Those events also led to our First-Generation students asking for more connection events and programming in the spring semester too. Fast forward to April 2024, First-Generation Appreciation Day at UNC Charlotte was a testament to the university’s recognition of the unique contributions and needs of First-Generation students.

The University of North Carolina at Charlotte first-gen merch
The event provided a platform for these students to connect, share their stories, and celebrate their achievements. Here are some highlights from the day:

  • The event featured various activities designed to foster connections among First-Generation students. These activities helped students build a supportive network, exchange experiences, and create lasting friendships. Included amongst those activities were connection cards with discussion prompts.
  • No celebration is complete without good food and entertainment. The event offered a variety of delicious cookout foods, creating a festive atmosphere where students could relax and enjoy themselves. We also hosted our University’s favorite mascot, Norm the Niner.
  • The day was not just about celebration but also about building a strong community of First-Generation students. By coming together, students found a sense of belonging and solidarity, knowing they are not alone in their journey.

The importance of being a First-Generation college student at UNC Charlotte cannot be overstated. These students bring resilience, diverse perspectives, and leadership to the university community. Celebrations like the First-Generation Appreciation Day highlight their achievements and foster a sense of belonging and community. UNC Charlotte’s ongoing support and recognition of First-Generation students ensure that they continue to succeed and inspire future generations. As these trailblazers pave the way, they create a legacy of perseverance and empowerment that will resonate for years to come.

For more information on the University of North Carolina at Charlotte's approach, please visit their website here.