In honor of National First-Generation College Day, the Center for Multicultural Life hosted a celebration for first-generation (first-gen) students and a panel for students to share their experiences with the rest of the community on November 8.
The celebration, hosted on Coe Quad, consisted of Pinky D’s poutine food truck and Bath Sweet Treats, as well as music and dancing. In addition, there were decorations for photos of first-gen students celebrating their role on campus.
“I wanted it in the center of campus. I want people to feel seen and celebrated and valued. I want it to be so that you can’t ignore it, and I want it to be a new tradition going forward,” said Kyra Green, interim director of the Center for Multicultural Life.
Following the celebration, a panel of first-gen students spoke about their experiences at the College. The panel consisted of Kellie Navarro ’23, Tory Greene ’22, Ryan Britt ’22, Ivana Guitierrez ’23 and Arturo Linan-Martinez ’23. Senior Vice President and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Claudia Marroquin moderated the panel.
The panel started with the students discussing their journeys of finding support at the College through different campus groups like THRIVE, Geoffrey Canada Scholars (GCS) and the Center for Multicultural Life. Most panelists discussed the pressure to find a reliable community at the College, as many lacked that support from home.
“One thing that people should recognize is that the road to get here as a first-gen student was really hard to begin with. You have a lot of pressure from your family, your community to do well. And we want to do well for them,” Britt said.
The panelists often had to navigate the college search process alone. They also needed to find a school with supportive financial resources and often first-gen-specific programming.
At Bowdoin, the panelists have felt a divide from their home communities. When returning home, they are often described as “the ones who got out” and sometimes find it difficult to fully connect with friends and family that do not have the same opportunities.
However, the panelists also focused on the support they found once on campus. Through the GCS program, many of the panelists found a community of people of color and first-gen college students that they have remained close with throughout their time at Bowdoin.
“My first year and second year I attended the brunch that [GCS] held and got to connect with a lot of cool professors and other students who are first-gen,” Greene said. “You realize that the community is bigger than you think.”
The panel ended with a moment of celebration for the accomplishments of the panelists and other first-gen students. The audience and fellow panelists snapped along as each student shared their academic, social, athletic and other achievements.
“I know a lot of people don’t really think about first-gen or what that means for people on this campus,” Britt said. “Having a day to recognize the accomplishments of those students and celebrate what we’re doing is valuable and important for our community.”
The Center for Multicultural Life and THRIVE will continue to create programming throughout the year for first-gen students. The first-year and senior first-gen retreats will be held in the spring semester.