Dartmouth observes National First-Generation College Celebration Day
Events and programming by the First Generation Office aimed to bring support and awareness to Dartmouth’s first-generation community.
On Nov. 8, the Dartmouth community celebrated National First-Generation College Celebration Day. Dartmouth’s first-generation community is made up of 745 undergraduate students, in addition to alumni and faculty, who are the first in their families to attend or work at college, according to Dartmouth’s website. Events and programming for the celebration included an “I’m first” rock painting activity, cupcakes at Collis Center and career counseling at the Center for Professional Development.
National First-Generation College Celebration Day began in 2017 when the Center for Opportunity in Education and the Center for First-Generation Student Success joined together to celebrate the anniversary of the Higher Education Act of 1965, according to the Center for Opportunity in Education’s website. Beyond designating federal grants and loan programs to help students afford a college education, the act also paved the way for TRIO programs, which are federally funded programs that provide support services aiding first-generation students.
First Generation Office director Jay Davis ’90 said the celebration had two main goals: The first was to make first-generation students feel supported and the second was to highlight the importance of first-generation students as part of the Dartmouth community.
“I think Dartmouth has a pretty good culture of recognizing these students with the first-gen office and [the First Year Student Enrichment Program],” Davis said. “Students don’t seem to want to hide the fact that they are first gen — they’re quite happy and proud of it”
The day’s festivities took place at three different locations across campus — the First Generation Office, the Collis Center and the CPD, Davis explained. At Collis, students had the chance to pick up a cupcake with a frosted “1” on it and sign a banner with the names of other first-generation community members. In addition to the rock painting activity, the First Generation Office also handed out stickers and bags. At the CPD, students took professional headshots and received one-on-one career counseling and resume reviews.
“[The CPD and First Generation Office are] a wonderful collaboration that I know will continue to build over time,” First Generation Office associate director Janice Williams ’92 said.
Williams said that part of her role as associate director is to strengthen the connection the office has with first-generation students throughout their four years at Dartmouth, rather than solely focusing on FYSEP, the first year summer enrichment program. Along with Williams, Diane Cammarata has joined the office as a program coordinator and Mariam Banahi as the assistant director of the office.
Williams and Davis both explained that this year’s celebration was larger than in past years, which they attributed in part to the office's expansion.
“Jay’s office has grown and we’re all coming in with different experiences, wanting to serve and highlight and celebrate the community in various ways and Jay is eager for that, which is great,” Williams said.
Students agreed that this year’s celebration surpassed those in past years.
“Last year we celebrated first gen day, but it was on a much smaller scale that not everyone knew about,” First Generation Office student director Damien Jeffers ’23 explained.
Williams explained that because the celebration day falls on Nov. 8, it is a unique time for Dartmouth’s 10-week academic calendar. While students at other schools may have the “bandwidth” to do more, many Dartmouth students are preparing for finals.
“We’re in the last stretch of the term and a lot is on everyone’s minds,” Williams said. “We want to be mindful of how busy students are and not tax them, but see this as come get a treat, come feel loved, come feel supported on this day.”
Jeffers echoed that week nine was also a busy time for them, however they “were drawn” to rock painting and Collis. While the programming was primarily organized by the First Generation Office’s staff, student directors offered some “guiding suggestions,” Jeffers explained.
“It really is the most meaningful community that I have had on campus,” Jeffers said. “This is where I feel supported and where I can offer support and it means the world to me.”
Rosario Rosales ’25 said she had been studying to get ahead of her finals, but she found time to take a study break at the First Generation Office’s rock painting activity. Rosales said that she uses the First Generation Office as a study spot and appreciates having fellow first-generation students when she’s there.
“The community is extremely tight-knit and supportive,” Rosales said. “It’s a group of people you can always count on for advice when it comes to navigating this institution. We know how difficult things can be at Dartmouth.”