Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

42° Evanston, IL
Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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“I’m First” week honors first-generation students, staff and faculty

The+%E2%80%9CI%E2%80%99m+First%E2%80%9D+week+was+expanded+from+an+%E2%80%9CI%E2%80%99m+First%E2%80%9D+day+in+2022%2C+which+occurred+on+national+First-Generation+day%2C+Nov.+8.
Jacob Wendler/Daily Senior Staffer
The “I’m First” week was expanded from an “I’m First” day in 2022, which occurred on national First-Generation day, Nov. 8.

First-generation students were greeted by cheers of “happy First Gen Week!” as they entered the “I’m First” celebration under a purple and white balloon arch Wednesday night at the Segal Visitors Center. 

“I’m First” week, hosted by Student Enrichment Services, encouraged Northwestern students, faculty and staff to celebrate the experiences and achievements of first-generation college students. This goal was also the theme of the “I’m First” celebration, which featured mingling and a photobooth. 

“You might come into a space like this and think that you are super underprivileged and people are going to try to put you down for it, but in spaces like this, you’re being uplifted for the things that you’ve accomplished,” Weinberg freshman and event attendee Kunmi Faseru said. “It’s good to honor those accomplishments and also honor your family because (being a first-generation student) is not just an individual thing, it’s a collective accomplishment.”

Formal programming rounded out the night after initial festivities, including a spoken word performance from the Black Poetry Society and the announcing of the winners of the I’m First: Trailblazer Award and the I’m First: Faculty Advocate Award. The event also included a speech from keynote speaker SESP and Psychology Prof. Mesmin Destin, who spoke about the role of community in the success of BIPOC and first-generation college students.

Aside from the “I’m First” celebration, the week was filled with programming supporting first-generation college students, including a student and faculty mixer, a workshop to teach students how to discuss their first-generation experiences with potential employers and an alumni dinner.

Weinberg freshman Britney Perez’s favorite event was the I’m First Storytelling: Faculty and Student Mixer, hosted by SES and Latinx Studies Prof. Myrna García. 

“It was really cool to see (García’s) experience as a first-generation, to see her home and to be welcomed in her home,” Perez said. “She made herself very welcoming. (García) reminded me a lot of my mother and (she’s) the reason why I’m here.”

At a school in which more than 300 first-generation students make up about 15% of this fall’s freshman class, more efforts are being made to honor these students.

What started as a mostly online program in Spring 2018 has since been transformed into a week-long “I’m First” celebration. The celebration is now looking to transition to also include year-long programming to recognize first-generation students’ experiences and achievements at NU, SES Associate Director Mayra Garces said.

“I’m looking at opportunities to continue to collaborate with different partners on campus to expand first-gen students’ understanding of themselves and also continue celebrating,” Garces said. “SES is really proud of our first-gen students and proud of all that they do and accomplish, and we’re excited to be able to be celebrating in this capacity.”

Correction: A previous version of this article misstated the name of the Black Poetry Society. The Daily regrets the error.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @lmschroeder_

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