Being the first in your family to attend university is a phenomenal achievement—and one which too often requires overcoming barriers and hardships. That was the central message at CSUDH’s 5th Annual First Generation Celebration on Nov. 8, an event dedicated to the nearly 50 percent of Toro students who are forging this path for themselves and their families.
Organized by TRIO Student Support Services, and in collaboration with 17 other departments, the celebration was part of a series of events designed to increase awareness of first-generation Toros and uplift their narratives.
First Generation College Celebration Day is observed nationally on Nov. 8 to commemorate the signing of the Higher Education Act of 1965, which created new programs to support low-income and first-generation college students.
Associated Students, Inc. President Edgar Mejia-Alezano spoke at the event about his own experiences as a first-generation student, reciting an original poem which acknowledged the sacrifices of his family and affirmed his fellow students.
“You should be really proud of yourself,” he said. “You did this despite the struggles, going from one job to another, working endless hours, and despite society making you think you don’t belong. I’m here to tell you that you do belong.”
Third-year student Elenna Hernandez, who co-chaired the event, also delivered a speech about the challenges of pursuing higher education and the significance of being a first-generation student.
“To me, being a first-gen means honoring my ancestors,” she said. “Though they did not obtain an education, let alone go to college, they sacrificed their lives […] to provide for the generations that have come after them.”
She added, “I may be the first in my bloodline to pursue higher education, but I am not the last.”
Hernandez is double majoring in sociology and Chicana/Chicano Studies, and plans to pursue a master’s degree in social work after graduation—once again blazing a new pathway for her family.
View all photos from the First Generation Celebration on SmugMug.