In 2017, the Council for Opportunity in Education (COE) and the Center for First-generation Student Success launched the inaugural First-Generation College Celebration! Given the continued success of this event, COE and the Center now partner to make this celebration an annual event.

On November 8, we encourage colleges, universities, corporations, non-profits, and K-12 schools to celebrate the success of first-generation college students, faculty, staff, and alumni in any and every way possible. Get creative! In previous years, institutions and organizations have invited speakers and offered programming on first-generation student success, hosted lunch and learn events, kicked off mentoring programs, distributed first-gen swag, featured first-generation students on websites, and more! Consider how you can build relationships with colleagues, involve leadership, and use Celebration Day as a galvanizing force across your institution or organization. If sharing information about your event on social platforms, be sure to tag @COEtalk and @FirstgenCenter and use the #CelebrateFirstGen!

Join us in advancing an asset-based national narrative on first-generation student experiences and outcomes. Use November 8 to encourage your communities to better understand the systemic barriers plaguing higher education and the supports necessary for this important and resilient population to continue thriving. Check out the new logo!


Share Your 2021 Plans Here!

Why Celebrate on November 8

November 8 was selected as the date for the annual National First-Generation College Celebration to honor the anniversary of the signing of the Higher Education Act of 1965. The Higher Education Act (“HEA”) emerged out of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty. Much like other hallmark legislation of that era, such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, HEA was intended to help level a playing field that for too long had been weighed against Americans from minority and low-income backgrounds. In addition to creating federal grants and loan programs to help students finance their educations, the legislation made key investments in institutions of higher education. Additionally, HEA ushered in programs, particularly the Federal TRIO programs, necessary for postsecondary access, retention, and completion for low-income, potential first-generation college graduates.

Click here to learn more about the Higher Education Act of 1965, the creation of Federal TRIO programs, and the history of National First-Generation College Celebration.

Plan Your Celebration

Since 2017, institutions, corporations, non-profits, and K-12 schools from across the nation have celebrated first-generation students, faculty, staff, and alumni on November 8 and highlighted the important contributions made within their communities. From keynote speakers and brown bag lunches to launching awareness campaigns and new strategic plans, the opportunities for celebrations are endless. At many institutions and organizations, November 8 events have grown to week-long, or even month-long celebrations. We hope you are also planning a celebration for 2021! Below, you will find profiles from many of the institutions and organizations who have hosted celebration events to spark your planning and creativity. Be sure to share your plans with us, too!

2021 Celebration Highlights

Resources for TRIO Programs

To support the many ways that institutions (who have been granted Federal TRIO funds) are participating in the First-Generation College Celebration, the Council for Opportunity in Education created this resource. Through this resource, you will understand that each TRIO project’s regulations describe three areas where supplies are allowable costs: supplies needed for project recordkeeping, supplies needed for project administration, and supplies needed for participant development, or delivering services to participants. 

Click here to learn more

A National Celebration Centering First-gen Voices

November 8, 2021 | 3:00 pm ET

A National Celebration Centering First-gen Voices will feature a panel of first-gen students and graduates sharing insight into their experience, moderated by Dr. Quintin B. Bullock, President, Community College of Allegheny County located in Allegheny Pennsylvania. It is through our understanding of the first-gen identity and experiences we may better align institution resources and support offerings to meet the unique needs of first-gen students.



  • Ms. Alaura Ervin, legislative assistant, Office of Senator John Cornyn, TRIO Alum
  • Ms. Alexia Patino, undergraduate student, North Central College
  • Ms. Pierina Sanchez, Democratic nominee, New York City Council, TRIO Alum
  • Mr. Sly Worth Jr., graduate student, The Ohio State University

Grant Opportunity

In support of the 2021 First-Generation College Celebration, the Center, Council for Opportunity in Education (COE), and sponsors are pleased to continue to offer the Grant Opportunity! These funds are intended to extend an institution's or an organization's ability to reach more first-generation students, engage more members of the community, launch a new program or event, or to provide additional services surrounding the First-Generation College Celebration. Eligible institutions and organizations may apply for up to $500 of unrestricted funds; eligibility requirements are outlined in the Grant Opportunity application. While working on your submission, take a moment to review the sample Grant Opportunity examples.

2021 Recipients

Check out the virtual announcement of the 2021 Grant Opportunity recipients.


Congratulations to the past Grant Opportunity recipients.

Bipartisan Resolution

Senator Raphael Warnock (D-GA), the first TRIO alum in the Senate; first-generation college graduate Senator Roger Marshall (R-KS); and Congressional TRIO Caucus Co-Chairs, Representative Gwen Moore (D-WI, TRIO alumna) and Representative Mike Simpson (R-ID) introduced the first-ever bipartisan resolution to celebrate the accomplishments of first-generation college students demonstrating how intentionally supporting one third of currently enrolled college students increases access and success across postsecondary experiences.

Bipartisan Resolution

Past Celebrations

2020 Celebration Highlights