The University is Commemorating First-Gen Week Nov. 4-10 With a Host of Events and Activities
November 04, 2022

Pioneers. Innovators. Resilient. Resourceful. Humble. Strong. Determined.

Those are some of the words that aptly describe Stanislaus State’s largest population of students: First-generation.

About 74 percent of the University’s students are first-generation, meaning they are the first in their family to attend college. Stan State and other universities across the nation will acknowledge them during First-Generation College Celebration Week.

Launched in 2017 by the Council for Opportunity in Education (COE) and the Center for First-generation Student Success, First-Generation College Celebration Week is an opportunity to recognize the accomplishments of first-gen students, faculty, staff and alumni, highlight resources available to students to help them traverse college life, establish networks and build community.

Stan State is commemorating the week Friday, Nov. 4 through Thursday, Nov. 10, with a host of events and activities, according to Lissett De La Cruz, an academic advisor in the University’s Academic Success Center (ASC) and coordinator of its First-Gen Fridays workshop series.

De La Cruz, is part of the committee that has been working on the celebration week since summer. It’s a collaborative effort that includes departments across the campus including ASC, the Educational Opportunities Program (EOP), TRIO Student Support Services, Housing and Residential Life and the Career and Professional Development Center.

“This year will probably be the best year. It's been getting better and better because we all know each other, and we know what we all bring from each department,” De La Cruz said. “We want to maximize the week for the students with both virtual and in-person events.

Serving Stan State’s first-gen community is a passion for the committee members, most of whom are first-generation college graduates themselves: De La Cruz, Elizabeth Zafra, Marsha Bond-Nelson, Evelyn Ramos, Danielle Rankin, Gabriela Morder and Silvia Soria.

They remember their experiences as first-gen students and are dedicated to helping Warriors who are following in their footsteps.

“I see myself in many of the students I serve. It’s the best part of my job, and it’s a huge honor,” said advisor Elizabeth Zafra. “I understand their challenges and struggles. As many of us know, obtaining a college degree is not easy. It carries a lot of pressure, especially among first-gen college students.”

Michelle Barajas Perez, a Spanish major with minors in criminal justice and psychology, describes being a first-gen student “is a gift.”

“I feel extremely lucky to have been given this opportunity to study at a university,” she said. “I was always told to study and to go to school, but I never truly understood why until I got to Stan State. As first-generation college students, we will be the change our families have hoped for, and we will reach for opportunities they never had.”

Barajas Perez said Stan State has been her biggest support system.

“I started out in the Educational Opportunities Program (EOP) where I got one-on-one help from an advisor and a mentor,” she said. “They helped me learn my way around campus resources. I gained confidence through clubs such as Chicanos Unidos for Academic Achievement (CUAA). I even had an opportunity to study abroad in Japan.”

Edith Herrera, a fourth-year sociology major, remembers how she initially struggled when she first applied for financial aid.

“It was difficult for me because I had no idea what I was doing,” Herrera said. “As a first-generation college student, I felt a lot of pressure.”

But she got the help she needed through Stan State’s TRIO Student Support Services (SSS) programs.

“The programs made me feel at home and provided so many resources,” she said. “SSS helped me be in my community and helped me leave my comfort zone. As a first-generation college student, it was difficult for me to ask questions, but SSS has helped me learn how to ask for help when I’m struggling.”

Today, Herrera is on track to graduate in spring 2023.

“I’m proud of myself because I have accomplished so much,” she said. “Being a college student and the first in my family to reach this achievement is an honor. I feel like anything is possible if I work hard for it because that’s what I have learned. I feel unstoppable.”

Stan State’s First-Generation Celebration Week includes several planned activities, both in person and virtual. Students, faculty and staff members are invited to register for events via the Warrior Life portal.

11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Friday, Nov. 4 – Virtual Wellness Workshop (Virtual)
Learn about Stan State’s new YOU app that supports holistic well-being for students. The workshop also includes information about Stan State’s Campus Cares and Basic Needs programs.   

1 p.m. Monday, Nov. 7 – “A Walk in my Shoes: First Generation College Students Documentary”
Village Café
This award-winning documentary delves into the lives of eight first-generation college students, five preservice teachers and three successful educators, who chose a profession dedicated to a concept they are all committed to: changing lives. 

11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 8 – First-Gen Networking Brunch
Village Café
Come grab some brunch and network with faculty, staff, and other First-Gen students! We will also be playing a special game of BINGO!  

Wednesday, Nov. 9 

Success as a First-Gen Professional Workshop
1 p.m. Virtual

Students will learn about potential barriers and strategies to address concerns as they transition from college to career during this virtual workshop.

Get Ahead with a Professional Headshot
2-5 p.m. University Student Center, Room 205

First-Gen Study Session
4-7 p.m. Warrior Cross Cultural Center, Community Room (L201)

In collaboration with First-Gen Fridays and the Warrior Cross Cultural Center 

3:30-4:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 10 – First-Gen Celebration Career Panel (Virtual)