There is no doubt that being a First-Generation College student is something to be proud of and celebrate! On November 8th, 2018, the First-Generation Initiative (FGI) here at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, did just that – We celebrated our First Gen community of college students, faculty, and staff!

This event was open to all members of the HWS community. The purpose of the event was for people to meet members of the First Gen community, enjoy each other’s company, sign a pledge of support, or create a short video. The day had an open itinerary that allowed people to come in, relax, play board games, and even do homework if they wanted. At 12:30 pm there was a group picture for both the FGI community and a picture with the community and FGI supporters. The hope for this event was to have an open and welcome space – options instead of structure.

The turnout for this event was phenomenal! So many members of the community, both first gen students and faculty, and supporters, came together to celebrate the importance of the initiative.

I was able to meet with Kels Veeder ’21, a FGI Student Coordinator, to gain his insight on the event:

Why would you say this event was important?
First Gen students are often invisible – So, having an open celebration makes it easier for non-First Gens to show support as well as having first gen students gain support from members of the community. It is also important to foster overall community on campuses for the First Gen community. There is something very valuable when a community comes together for support in the struggles they face. “We are here. We are important. We deserve to be recognized” -Kels Veeder ‘21

What impact did this event have?
“I believe this event fostered a strong sense of community, improved visibility, and was ultimately just a good place to come together and decompress in the midst of stress. This was purposeful in how it brought visibility for FGI, and was still fun” -Kels

Two incredibly important features of this celebration were the opportunity to sign a pledge in support of the First Gen community, and the opportunity to make a video of support. The purpose of the pledge was to allow students and staff to stand in solidarity with what it means to be a First-Generation college student, and to actively support our struggles and achievements. Similarly, the video, which was a new feature this year, allowed people to do the same thing in a more powerful way.

Videos of support ranged from various departments in the community. For instance, the theatre department enthusiastically made two videos together: one that included first generation students and faculty within the department, and another which featured supporters from the department. “I think that we decided to record videos because it’s powerful to see a voice and face- it’s a strong statement.” -Kels

All in all, to me this event was just a beautiful way for the community to come together and support an often-forgotten group in the community. As a First-Generation college student, I can attest that there are times where I do in fact feel invisible on a campus where many of my fellow students do not know what it is like to be the first in a family to go to college. I am very grateful for this event and the entire HWS community for taking time out of their very busy days to pause and show their support for the FGI community.