Frederic MacDonald-Dennis, Berkshire Community College / The Center / December 21, 2020

Founded in 1960, Berkshire Community College (BCC) is the only open door, public, two-year institution west of the Connecticut River in Massachusetts. In Fall 2019, the college received 1,627 full-and part-time students from Berkshire County and adjacent rural areas of Vermont, New York, and Connecticut. 43% of BCC students are first-generation, in a Berkshire region where just 33% of adults hold a bachelor’s degree.

On November 8th 2020, BCC launched its inaugural First-Generation College Celebration Day, with a week of events dedicated to its first-generation students, staff, and supporting faculty. BCC articulated a week of daily online panels, speakers, and first-generation fair around the theme of the year “Futures, Initiatives, Resources, Support, Tradition” (F.I.R.S.T). Every day of the week, students submitted written stories, six-word stories, a picture or a video celebrating their achievements as first-generation learners. All participants were also entered into a raffle draw. The stories, videos, and pictures were featured on a new web page dedicated to First-Generation students at BCC, on Facebook, and on a new blog dedicated to the event.

Monday, November 2nd

The TRIO Center and BCC Foundation partnered to present initiatives and scholarships for first-generation students. Since then, the BCC Foundation has started exploring the possibility of creating a new scholarship for TRIO first-generation students.

Tuesday, November 3rd

A panel of first-generation students and alumni shared their accomplishments and gave advice to first-generation peers.

Wednesday, November 4th

Members of the BCC teaching and learning center, BCC faculty, and members of the DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) Committee presented new directions for supporting equity and access at BCC.

Thursday, November 5th

The TRIO center hosted an event celebrating 20 years of service in support of first-generation students. For this occasion, a new web page was created for the center.

Friday, November 6th

Students had the opportunity to connect with multiple offices of student support at BCC in an online fair hosted by the TRIO Center.

Sunday, November 8th

The student prize winners were announced, and their stories were featured on our websites! We thank the BCC Writing Center for its contribution in selecting the winning entries among all the student stories.

Creating this event with the support of the Center for First-generation Student Success was the occasion for BCC to renew its commitment to serving first-generation learners of the Berkshire. The week permitted the creation of new resources to support their learning (website), an online blog to gather the community, new teaching methods for faculty in the Center for Teaching and Learning, a discussion with the DEI Committee to better understand the definition of first-generation, and a special event to showcase the twenty years of the TRIO program history. Every part of the institution was invested in making this week a success, and celebrating our students’ achievements.

To close this blog, one of our students created a six-word story to express what studying at BCC represented for a first-generation learner: “Challenge, Hope, Achieving Goals, Confidence, Discovery."

For more information on Berkshire Community College’s approach, please visit their website here.