#FirstGenProud at Hillsborough Community College

Sheila McCants, Hillsborough Community College / The Center / December 09, 2022

Collage of students, faculty, and staff wearing blue and green

Hillsborough Community College (HCC) celebrated first-generation college students with two days of activities from November 8-9, 2022. The events were planned and executed by the TRIO Student Support Services (SSS) staff and with the support of the Vice President of Student Services and Enrollment Management. The two-day celebration consisted of a panel discussion and a pop-up celebration event.

Project planning began in August when we met with the student organization, Hawk TV. These students are studying for TV/radio careers and helped us create a video, “#FirstGenProud at HCC." The goal was to curate a diverse group of students that are representative of the first-generation population at the college. It was an exciting day in September when we assembled the TV crew and the students who would provide their stories about the challenges of first-generation students and why it is important to be first. We used first-generation TRIO students as well as those not connected with the program. The participants included a mother-son duo; a member of student leadership; a TRIO graduate who has gone on to earn her master’s degree; and a young woman who is the oldest of several younger siblings. One student saw the action and asked what was going on, ended up in the video also! There was a lot of nervous energy, but the pay-off was an amazing video.

Several comments indicated surprise that the same challenges that impacted faculty who have been out of undergraduate studies for 25-30 years are the same for those who attend now.

The TRIO SSS director strategically participated in the annual faculty in-service at the start of the term. She facilitated a workshop, “How Faculty can Help First-generation Students." During the session, she asked faculty if they would help celebrate current students by participating in the celebration. Several agreed and participated on the panel or by helping to market the events to their classes and colleagues.

Initially we thought of hosting two different panels, one for students and one for faculty. After a lot of consideration, we thought it would be interesting to combine the panel. HCC serves 40K students at five campuses throughout the fourth largest district in the state of Florida. To reach as many people as possible, we held a virtual panel discussion on November 8, 2022. So many people attended! Some viewed it from their classrooms, others joined in individually. The attendees were students, faculty, staff, and administrators. The combined panel was a huge success. Several comments indicated surprise that the same challenges that impacted faculty who have been out of undergraduate studies for 25-30 years are the same for those who attend now. As a result, several faculty are interested in learning more about supporting first-generation students.

We wanted to include a physical presence, so on November 9, with a tropical storm approaching Florida, we took the celebration to every single campus. We started with the campuses where TRIO offices are located, then the team split into pairs and traveled to the other three campuses. This pop-up event lasted for 30 minutes and featured brightly colored balloons, music, gourmet boxed lunches, a T-shirt give-away, #FirstGenProud buttons, information pamphlets about succeeding as a first-generation student, and selfies. 

Hillsborough 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!