Montebello's First-Generation College Celebration
Ruben Dorantes M.Ed., Volunteers of America: Los Angeles / The Center / December 02, 2022
With our First-Generation College Celebration, our utmost goal was to foster an environment that cultivated introspection and community building. Our celebration was centered on a "Past, Present, and Future" theme that required students to take the time to reflect on their aspirations and ambitions. We implemented day-long activities at two different school sites, Montebello and Bell Gardens High School, including a first-generation scavenger hunt and a photo wall of future first-generation college graduates.
From my own experiences as a first-generation college graduate, navigating post-secondary education was not an easy endeavor. It was filled with confusion, stress, and anxiety. To relieve our students from similar sentiments, we wanted to focus on providing activities that could help boost the confidence and belongingness of our students. With our scavenger hunt, students were required to identify first-generation college graduates within the school itself. This included reaching out to teachers, staff, and administrators to begin fostering long-lasting relationships based on common ground. Twelfth grader Alejandro states, “I like being able to discuss what being first in your family to go to college is like because you don't necessarily think about what it took for teachers to become teachers. They have similar journeys to us.”
I like being able to discuss what being first in your family to go to college is like because you don't necessarily think about what it took for teachers to become teachers. They have similar journeys to us.
For our wall of future college graduates, students were able to take polaroid photos with our college mascot photo props and begin thinking about what school or major they intend to pursue. With the polaroid photos, we created a wall of future first-generation college graduates for students to see continuously throughout the school year in our classroom. Not only is this an act of manifestation but also the expansion of what students believe is possible. The goal is for students to return at the end of the academic year and reflect on how their plans have changed or stayed the same.
Ultimately, our celebration consisted of 212 student participants from both high schools. Eastside Talent Search Project Advisor Heidi Jimenez states: “I think it went rather well, students were engaged and willing to have conversations about pursuing post-secondary education.” As far as what the future holds for Eastside Talent Search, we are excited to continue promoting a college-going culture. We operate on the belief that all students are deserving of transformative educational experiences grounded in empathy and rapport and are appreciative of the continuous support from our various stakeholders including the counseling team, principals, administration, the Council for Opportunity in Education, and NASPA.
Volunteers of America: Los Angeles' 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!