On Wednesday, Nov. 8, Tyler Junior College joined higher education institutions across the nation in observing the 7th Annual First-Generation College Celebration Day.
First-Gen Day encourages campus communities to better understand the systemic barriers plaguing higher education and the supports necessary for first-generation students to be successful.
The first national First-Generation College Celebration Day was held in 2017 when the nonprofit Council for Opportunity in Education (COE) encouraged institutions nationwide to celebrate first-generation college students and graduates on or around Nov. 8.
“First-generation students have repeatedly demonstrated that supporting and encouraging promising students, often low-income, whose parents never went to college, is one of the great investments our country can make,” said COE President Maureen Hoyler. “Their success stories are worth celebrating.”
COE selected Nov. 8 to honor the anniversary of the signing of the Higher Education Act of 1965. This landmark legislation emerged as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty. It ushered in programs, particularly the Federal TRIO programs, necessary for postsecondary access, retention, and completion for low-income, potential first-generation college graduates.
Hosted by the TJC TRIO program, Wednesday’s events on the TJC central campus and TJC West included information resource fairs, free T-shirts and gift cards.
Many of TJC’s faculty, staff and administrators were first-generation college students themselves, so they understand how earning a higher ed degree can seem insurmountable.
Signs bearing inspirational quotes from many of those employees were displayed across the TJC central campus.
Some revealed personal, real-world struggles they overcame by attending college.
Students and faculty from TJC’s welding technology department celebrate First-Generation College Day on Wednesday at TJC West.
“I wanted to be financially stable and have control over my own career,” said Gigi Delk, computer information systems/gaming and simulation development professor.
Danielle Pritchard, biology professor, said, “Seeing my mother struggle to find decent jobs without a degree motivated me greatly.”
Others offered encouragement for current students.
Sherry Fuller, TJC director of career education services, said, “The tough part of college is a season that will pass, but the benefits for yourself and your family will last a lifetime or more.”
Current first-generation TJC student Taylor Reeves is taking those words to heart.
Reeves, a sophomore education major from Whitehouse, said, “As a first-generation college student, my family is unaware of the details involved in enrolling, scheduling classes, and managing a job and homework. The TJC TRIO program has guided me through each of the steps of not only academics, but also financial aid, campus activities and success strategies.”
She continued, “I think what I will remember the most about TJC is TRIO. I was nervous about enrolling in college and unsure of what college would be like, but TRIO has shown me several strategies to be successful, and I am very grateful for them.”
As a TJC employee and tutor in the TRIO program, Patty Casey feels a certain kinship to her first-generation students because she was once in their shoes.
Taylor Reeves, a sophomore education major from Whitehouse, participates in Wednesday’s 7th Annual First-Generation College Celebration Day on the TJC central campus.
“Not only am I a first-generation, returning adult student — I am also a TJC alumna,” Casey said. “After graduating from TJC, I continued my education and, at the age of 37, received a degree in secondary education with English and ESL certifications. I juggled my marriage, a full-time job, a child and college, like so many of our students today who juggle multiple tasks. It is possible!”
For more information on TRIO and other programs available to assist first-generation students, go to TJC.edu/TRIO.