WHAT IS NATIONAL FIRST-GEN DAY?
The term first-generation refers to students who are the first in their families to attend college. November 8 was selected as the date for the annual National First-Generation College Celebration to honor the anniversary of the signing of the Higher Education Act of 1965.
On Friday, November 8, 2019 there will be a National First-Generation Day Picnic from 11:00am – 1:30 pm on the Plaza of the Americas.
Learn more about UF first-generation programs and resources at https://firstgeneration.ufsa.ufl.eduhttps://firstgeneration.ufsa.ufl.edu.
Student Financial Affairs is proud to support first generation students. We recognize and support our first-gen students and graduates today and every day!
“Not having an example to follow made me strive to be an example for first generation students that came after me.”
SFA Administrative Support Assistant III
“I have met many First Generation students during my time at UF and truly admire the strength and determination that they show everyday. I’m happy to support my friends that are first generation students and am proud to attend a school where being a first generation student is celebrated!”
UF SFA Student Assistant
A tenured professor at one of Florida’s top institutions, Sr. VP of a management consulting firm, and a valued board member of several civic, social and educational organizations. He is the son of parents who were never formally educated; a housekeeper and orange grove worker. They could not read nor write, but supported and encouraged their sons to get their educations. One son went on to play cello in the famed New York Symphony and the other earned a PhD in Public Administration and though he is known as “Doc” in most circles; in mine I just call him Daddy; a first generation college student; who couldn’t afford housing so he “Wildcated” living in the dorms with friends and a cute girl, whom I call Mom, was a work study student in the business office, was able to somehow secure a “free” meal plan for him so he could eat. He is now the father and grandfather of second and third generation college graduates! Gen 4 is being groomed as we speak.
—Trellis N. Williams, MS
Student Financial Affairs Adviser
I am a first generation college graduate and a granddaughter of Ellis Island immigrants. My grandparents came to America from Italy to find a better life. My father was one of six children and was the only person in his family to receive a high school diploma. My mother’s family had eight children and all dropped out of high school to get jobs to help their family make ends meet.
My parents valued and emphasized a college education, but I grew up knowing that was not something my family could afford. When I got to college, I was more anxious about money than grades. Grants, scholarships and loans helped me get my degree.
Today I work at the university where I earned my bachelor’s more than 30 years ago. I am honored to work alongside dedicated financial aid professionals who help first-generation students every day.
—Sharon LaFragola Eyman
Student Financial Affairs Assistant Director
I only applied to one university. It was all my parents, who knew nothing of admission application fee waivers, could afford to spend. The essay portion of my application was spent talking about how I, against all odds, would find a way to complete my academic studies at the University of Florida. In hindsight, perseverance was the key to my academic success. With every new disappointing grade or financial setback I found myself asking, “How can I overcome this hurdle?” Can, of course, being operative word. It never occurred to me that I would face an obstacle that I could not overcome by myself. Time taught me, however, that perseverance is not a lonesome endeavor. My friends, family, professors, and staff all provided me with the support, resources, and knowledge I needed to persevere. The best advice I think I can give to any first-generation college student is to connect with those around you and build a network. You are, if anything, not alone.
—Kimberly J. Schmitt
SFA Coordinator 3 in Advising
I am not a first-generation college student.
My mom was. She grew up in a military family, moving from base to base and, at a very early age, had many responsibilities around the house. At age seven, she was expected to prepare her own meals when she got home from school, along with doing her share of chores around the house. When she wanted to go to college, her father only allowed her to go on the conditions that she live at home and continue to fulfill her duties around the home. So, she woke up very early each day, tended to their livestock and then drove two hours to her classes; at the end of the day, she made that two-hour drive back home, prepared dinner for the family, and finished her chores on the farm. She was not able to take part in the college experience by being involved in organizations or study groups, and had very little time each night to complete her assignments. Somehow, managing all that, she finished her degree.
Because my mother was my primary caregiver—my parents divorced when I was 3 years old—she was always underemployed. She stayed in a job that was low-paying, but had stability and flexibility to take time off for me, so that I could have the experiences she missed out on in her own childhood. I had every opportunity she could provide—ballet, Girl Scouts, riding lessons, and later on, sports and high-school clubs. When I told her I wanted to major in Classical Studies—news many parents would not be happy to receive—she was simply proud of me and glad I could pursue something I loved. Looking back, I can now fully appreciate how much she must have struggled with managing her schedule to take me to all those activities and how she went without so that I could have the uniforms, participation fees, and lessons that my peers had.
This morning, I gave her a copy of my dissertation. She read the simple dedication in it, “To my mother”, and starting crying. She said, “I am so proud. I just always wanted you to have so much more than I did.”
I am not a first-generation college student. But today, I realized the dreams of one.
UF Student Financial Affairs Associate Director
Have a first-gen story to share? Please send first-generation stories, successes, or tips to the SFA webmaster.