University of Colorado Boulder first-generation students gathered in the Abrams Lounge at the C4C on Tuesday, Nov. 8, to celebrate National First-Generation Celebration Day.
National First-Generation Celebration Day is a holiday celebrating college students who are the first in their family to attend college or higher education. The Center for Inclusion and Social Change held the kick-off event as part of the two-day celebrations for National First-Generation Celebration Week.
“The purpose of this event is to celebrate first-generation students and have fun together,” Center for Inclusion and Social Change faculty member Julian Martinez said at the opening of the event. “The asset that we have in this room is that we as a collective are going to broaden what this university is all about.”
The holiday takes place on Nov. 8 to honor the anniversary of the Higher Education Act of 1995. The law granted an increase in federal funding for universities to provide financial assistance to low-income and first-generation students.
The event featured a presentation led by Marta Loachamin, a Board of County Commissioner representing Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District. Born in South America, she immigrated to the United States and grew up in Colorado. She was the first person of color to be elected to the board in Boulder County.
Loachamin spoke to students about the importance of supporting one another and becoming part of a greater community of first-generation students.
“As a young girl, I was never told that mathematics would be something I would be good at, but I went from being a bank teller to a mortgage banker to a licensed realtor,” Loachamin said. “This is all because, as a Latina, I wanted to be able to help people in my community who needed it, and through these jobs and my current job in the political field, I was able to fulfill that responsibility.”
Loachamin described herself as a “cultural broker,” a bridge between groups with different cultural backgrounds.
“My encouragement to you all, as first-generation students and minorities, is to take this opportunity to be a cultural broker and bridge the gap between communities,” she said.
The event was also an opportunity for students to meet other first-generation students and make connections. Everyone was able to hang out, eat food and connect over their identity.
“Coming from a minority group, the impact that being a first-generation student has on my community is big,” Shylah Hernandez, a first-generation sophomore studying business, said. “It is an opportunity for me to become a leader, gain experiences and be a role model for a better future for upcoming generations.”
Shylah, the daughter of a single mom, said she feels proud that she is getting a college education because she will be able to give back to her family for all that they have done for her. She said is excited to see what she can accomplish with her college experience and what impact she can have on her community.
Fabiola Longoria, a junior studying political science and leadership said, “Breaking through the stereotypes is something that my siblings and younger family members could look up to.”
The celebration of National First-Generation Celebration Week continued Wednesday at Abrams Lounge with a Treat Yo’ Self Holistic Wellness Day. The event included wellness activities to relieve stress and a focus on self-care.
“I am proud because this has been the hardest thing that anyone in my family has endured,” Longoria said, “and I have made my own commitment to fulfill my responsibility of being the change and giving back to my community.”