First-Gen Week: From One Day to One Week

Diana Rivera, University of Sioux Falls / The Center / March 06, 2024

University of Sioux Falls First-gen picnic

As students continue to go to college each year, many of them are First-Gen and many are left feeling alone and unseen. This is quite often the case, regardless of whether we attend a small, local, college, or a big, state, University. Unless you are a first-generation student, you don’t get the amount of pressure, emotional angst, and struggle that comes with being the first. However, institutions can always try to understand and provide resources for us.

Such is the case for the University of Sioux Falls (USF); a small, private, non-profit, Christian, institution located in South Dakota. I attended USF as a student in 2018 and graduated in May of 2022. During that time, I was fortunate enough to experience when one department decided to pay special attention to students like me. In 2020, the Student Life department noticed a gap in programming and community for first-generation students. USF is a relatively small school, but the Student Life department set aside part of its budget to make sure first-generation students were seen.

University of Sioux Falls students on picnic blanket


I remember hearing about the first-ever National First-Generation College Celebration Day. It was a great event that was hosted by Student Life, to celebrate me and other First-Gen students. It was one of my favorite days because all my friends and I got to share our goals and aspirations while celebrating our resilience and drive to pursue our degree. Fast forward to November 6, 2023... I am still that first-generation student except now, I am the Coordinator of all First-Gen Programing. Having experienced first-hand the benefits of the National First-Generation College Celebration Day, I wanted to continue to grow and expand on this experience. Instead of a day, I thought, why not a week? So, I brainstormed with my Director, and we started tossing around words that start with 'F' to compliment First-Gen. Quickly, we came up with five: First-Gen Days, First-Gen Feedback, First-Gen Fashion, First-Gen Fiesta, First-Gen Freebies, and First-Gen Fraps.


Congrats First Gen University of Sioux Falls Party


We administered a feedback survey called First-Gen Day to gain more insight into the first-generation student experience at USF, to understand the services they use, and the gaps they face. Students who completed the survey were entered into a raffle to win a $50 gift card to our school store. First-Gen Fashion was a collaboration with Coopers Closet that provides students with professional clothing for the job search journey. I was also able to work out a deal with our school store to give First-Gen students 30% off all apparel throughout the week. The First-Gen Fiesta was the National First-Generation College Celebration Day where students played games, got to know one another, and at the end, break a piñata. While this week was very stressful, it proved worthwhile. Throughout the event, many current and new first-generation students showed up, especially for the last two events. First-Gen Freebies and Fraps proved to be very popular as a passive event that allowed first-generation students (both on-campus and off) to participate and have fun.


After the National First-Generation College Celebration Week, I asked many students if they were happy with the weeks' worth of events, and all of them stated how much they appreciated being celebrated like never before. As a first-generation student, I feel so blessed and rewarded to be able to put in all the effort to celebrate students like me and provide them with a better experience than my own. Big or small, there is always something institutions can do to celebrate us.  

For more information on University of Sioux Falls's approach, please visit their website here.