Teaching & Learning

Aggie First Scholars I'm First Celebration Set for Nov. 8

By Marcus Jensen |

Aggie First Scholars faculty and first-generation students pose for a photo. AFS will hold its annual "I'm First" Celebration on Nov. 8, commemorating National First-Generation College Student Day with several activities throughout the day.

Utah State University and Aggie First Scholars (AFS) will hold its “I’m First” Celebration on Nov. 8, celebrating National First-Generation College Student Day. The celebration will be held throughout the day with various events that will take place on the Logan campus.

“We believe that each first-generation college student should be celebrated,” said Karla Sandoval Rodriguez, AFS student coordinator. “First-gen students have a voice that matters, but often goes unrecognized. We want to focus this celebration on making sure that the community learns more about first-generation college students along with our program.”

The festivities will begin with a brunch for first-gen students at the Inclusion Center from 9-11:30 a.m. During the brunch, students will learn what resources are available to them at the Inclusion Center and be able to meet other first-gen students and faculty mentors on campus who identify as first-gen college graduates.

During the celebration, students will also be able to hear a collection of audio stories recorded by first-gen students. In these stories, the students will discuss what college means to them, what makes their story unique and more.

“One of our objectives for National First-Generation Day is to provide a space for 100 first-generation students and graduates to share their stories,” said Maddie Evans, AFS student coordinator. “First-gens are being invited to submit their stories in one of three formats: video, voice or a written response. Some of these stories have already been collected and we will be sharing them as a way of celebrating each individual story. Throughout the day we will continue to collect other first-gen stories.”

The public will then be able to join in on a virtual discussion hosted by the AFS BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) Student Panel. The discussion will be held on Zoom from 1-2 p.m. and will be moderated by JC Vazquez, professional practice instructor in the School of Teacher Education and Leadership and someone who identifies as a first-gen college graduate. Among other classes, Vazquez teaches a class on multicultural education and AFS saw this topic as fitting for a student panel discussion.

To close the celebration, first-gen students are invited to a Walk the Red Carpet and Welcome in the AFS VIP Lounge. The evening celebration, which is a collaboration between Campus Recreation and USU Dining, will be held in the Loft of the Aggie Recreation Center from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Student who attend must RSVP prior to the event.

The day of celebration is made possible by a grant from the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA), specifically from the NASPA Center for First-Generation Student Success.

“NASPA is the national organization for student affairs in higher education,” Rodriguez said. “They provide resources, centers, conferencing, and best practices for anyone in Student Affairs. When I was hired in July, I was asked to take the lead on writing this grant proposal. I am super excited to see this event coming to life!”

Aggie First Scholars is a student-success program designed to help first-gen college students in their pursuit of earning their college degree. At USU, a first-gen student is defined as one whose parents and/or guardians did not earn a four-year U.S. degree. The program aims to create lifelong learners and provide students with a knowledgebase and rolodex of peers who can help them navigate the college experience.

Students in the AFS program are provided the opportunity to receive mentorship from USU faculty and staff that identify as first-gen college graduates, as well as other first-gen students. The program holds monthly lunches where students can sit with their mentors and meet with other first-gen students to discuss issues and receive help and learn “tricks of the trade” from their peers.

“Aggie First Scholars is a wonderful program designed to help first-generation students build a strong foundation for succeeding at USU,” said USU President Noelle E. Cockett, who is also a first-generation college graduate. “Our university applauds and supports the resilience and dedication we see in Aggie First Scholars. This celebration affirms our commitment to provide first-gen students with access to post-secondary education, as well as targeted resources and special mentors that help them reach graduation.”

About 20% of USU’s first-year students are first-gen students, which is approximately 3,000 USU students. AFS gives these students an opportunity to learn from others who have been in similar situations and to learn tips they could otherwise not learn from family members who have gone to college before them.

“I am proud first-generation college student,” Evans said. “AFS has changed my life in a way that I never could have imagined. I have grown into the daughter, student, leader, friend, sister and mentor in part because of the experiences that I have had while being a part of AFS. The people that I have met– other students, mentors, and faculty and staff members– have all taught me lessons and inspired me to share my story. Hearing them has given me so much hope and I stive to do the same for others.”

For more information on Aggie First Scholars, visit www.usu.edu/first-scholars.

WRITER

Marcus Jensen
News Coordinator
University Marketing and Communications
marcus.jensen@usu.edu

CONTACT

Maddie Evans
Student Coordinator
Aggie First Scholars
(435) 797-1190
maddie.evans@usu.edu

Karla Sandoval Rodriguez
Student Coordinator
Aggie First Scholars
(435) 797-1190
karla.sandovalrodriguez@usu.edu



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