On Monday, the Center for Multicultural Life hosted an end-of-year celebration for first-generation (first-gen) college students in the backyard of 30 College Street. The students were greeted with Beach Betti’s ice cream whoopie pies, a bubble blowing machine and a sense of community.
“It’s part of our tradition to do something to celebrate all the hard work of our first-gen students,” Assistant Dean for Student Affairs of Student Affairs for Inclusion and Diversity and Director of the Rachel Lord Center of Religious and Spiritual Life Eduardo Pazos said. “I think [being first-generation], you carry on a lot of the hard work and hopes and pride of your parents. You’re a trailblazer for your community, your family and your siblings.”
The event was a small get-together of about a dozen first-generation students who got to meet one another and talk about their experiences.
“I really love the first-gen community on campus, and I love having first-gen friends,” Jackie Seddon ’23 said. “Coming up to graduation, you get to see everyone else who is becoming the first in their family [to graduate], so it makes it all the more special the longer you are here.”
Events hosted by the Center for Multicultural Life have often helped first-generation students like Sarah Luehrmann ’23 adjust to life at the College.
“I feel like it’s always nice to have a space on campus to talk to people,” Luehrmann said “It really helped me settle in at Bowdoin as an international, first-gen student. It was nice to have people there to lead the way and guide [me].”
About 16 percent of Bowdoin students are first-generation, which is defined as someone whose parents do not have four-year college degrees.
“[Being first-generation] is always an uphill climb, especially at a place like Bowdoin. It’s challenging, but it feels very special,” Miranda Baker ’24 said.
Baker added that watching her sister, Elizabeth Baker ’22, who is about to graduate this month, go through her college experience has been especially meaningful. She believes that her sister’s achievement proves to all first-generation students that they are capable of obtaining a college education.
Katie Rea ’25 had not been to an event held exclusively for first-generation students before this week.
“I heard about a few other events [this year] that were canceled because of [Covid-19],” Rea said. “I thought it would be cool to meet other first-gen students.”
Rea also views it as a chance to reflect on what it means to be first-generation.
“It’s really cool having this opportunity to be here and do things that neither of my parents have had the opportunity to. It’s super exciting to be able to be the first one to graduate,” Rea said.
Pazos believes that, while being a first-generation student is rewarding, it can also be a lot of pressure. He hoped that the event would give students the opportunity to relax.
“I hope students are able to take a little bit of a break. Our goal is to give them a little excitement to get them through the end of the semester,” Pazos said.
The Center for Multicultural Life will also host a graduation lunch for first-generation students in the Class of 2022 on May 27.