Gustavus celebrates first-generation students

This week, first-generation students across campus have been celebrating their accomplishments as part of the First-Generation Celebration, which took place on Nov. 9, 2020.
The Celebration, which was hosted by the First-Forward Network, a branch of the Center for Inclusive Excellence, included “I’m First” t-shirts and pins, a virtual speaker and cultural cookie baggies. The Network was also having students submit “I am first” selfies for their display case.
This celebration meant a lot to many students on campus. According to the Center for Inclusive Excellence, Gustavus is home to 275-300 students every year.
“Being a first-generation college student is a little overwhelming to say the least. It’s definitely an experience of its own because being first-generation, no one in my family knows how to apply for college or scholarships or the FAFSA,” Junior First-Generation Student Brenda De Rosas Lazaro said.
Celebrations like the one on Tuesday are part of the Center of Inclusive Excellence’s efforts to help first-generation students feel more confident navigating the nuances of college life.
“It’s just crazy to think that two years ago, I wasn’t in this position (in school and getting an education), so I’m lucky to have the resources to do it,” Lazaro said.
Lazaro was one of many students who posted a ‘I’m first’ photo on social media in celebration of first-forward day at Gustavus.
“ I posted a photo to acknowledge the people in my life that have been my inspiration and motivation (like my parents and grandparents). It was a way to acknowledge them publicly and give encouragement to the people who are in the same position (as I was) to help them realize it is possible,” Lazaro said.
The First Forward Network has many events planned for the remainder of the school year, including during J-term. They will also be celebrating first-forward month in April. Plans for that include virtual icebreaker activities, a first-forward dinner, a mini-concert and a senior celebration. Of course, it should be noted that these events are all pending given the uncertainty of planning during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Just in general, it’s hard to acknowledge each other and come together as a community since you can’t have large gatherings or anything,” Lazaro said.
The First-Forward Network was started to help close the gap between high school and college after students stop being involved with college-preparatory groups such as TRiO or Upward Bound.
“The First Forward Network initiative aims to provide guidance, direction, and resources not only as students transition from high school to college, but as they continue to navigate their journey through college,” the Network’s mission says.
The Network has previously hosted events for students co-sponsored with the Career Development Center offering information on growth, networking, finances and other pressing questions college students may have. The Center also offers the Summer Institute for Academic Success (SIAS), a time for first-year students to get connected to campus prior to first-year orientation.
Information about the First Forward Network can be found on their social media pages, @FirstForwardNetwork on Facebook and @first_forward_networking.gac on Instagram, as well as on the Center for Inclusive Excellence’s webpage.

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