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First-Generation Students to Be Celebrated

By Laura Cech

Terps whose parents didn’t graduate from college are invited to share advice, encouragement and other stories and to be photographed for a new display as part of today’s newly expanded First-Generation College Student Celebration Day event.

The photographs and stories will be featured in a gallery walk opening in the Stamp Student Union later this month, curated by Multicultural Involvement Community Advocacy staff in Stamp to highlight the experiences of the nearly one in five UMD undergraduates who are first-generation students.

“We are excited to expand involvement and create a campus-wide campaign of recognition, support and celebration of first-gen students, faculty and staff at the university,” said Jerry L. Lewis, executive director of the Academic Achievement Programs, which started the “Fearless First” tradition of setting up bulletin boards outside Stamp and inviting students, faculty and staff to write notes of advice and encouragement.

The annual event observes National First-Generation College Student Celebration Day that commemorates the signing of the Higher Education Act of 1965, which expanded higher education access to historically marginalized students.

“It is important that we honor the experiences and strengths that first-generation students bring to the UMD community,” said Bridgette Behling, associate director of leadership, engagement, advocacy and diversity for the Stamp. “Being the first in your family to graduate from college takes strength, persistence, creativity and intelligence.”

Students can stop in Stamp between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. for treats while supplies last. Books by first-generation authors will also be on display in the Portico Room (Room 2109) of McKeldin Library. Students and staff who can’t attend the in-person events are invited to share advice and stories on the digital bulletin board created during the pandemic.

The First-Generation Student Success Steering Committee, a cross-departmental group created by the Division of Student Affairs, has reviewed data about experiences of UMD’s first-gen students and will issue a report later this semester that will include recommendations for enhancing first-generation student success.

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