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First Generation Students Celebrated

November 5, 2018 - Dorene DiNaro

“I am first-generation,” those are the words, and these are the students who are first in their family to attend a four-year college and attain a bachelor’s degree.  These are the scholars that the First-Generation Celebration, hosted by UNM Student Support Services, slated for Friday, Nov. 9 at noon in the Student Union Building Atrium honors. 

 The University of New Mexico joins many college campuses across the nation in celebrating the 53rd anniversary of legislation which has helped countless low-income students become the first in their families to earn college degrees. 

  “The celebration is the second annual at UNM and is designed to commemorate the Higher Education Act of 1965—specifically November 8, 1965—the day that the term ‘first-generation’ was coined into legislation,” says Dawn Blue-Sky Hill, director for UNM Student Support Services-TRIO (SSS). 

 According to Blue-Sky Hill, the inaugural celebration was held last year in part with the Council for Opportunity in Education, and the Center for First-Generation Success program with the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA).  “It was a huge success nationwide and so they have decided to have a celebration every year,” she says.

 The SSS program at UNM targets 160 of the university’s undergraduate students who are first-generation to college, low-income and/or have a documented disability.  Many of the students they serve go on to give back to the program through mentorship and advisement.

 Tamara Martinez, a current SSS advisor earned her undergraduate degree while participating in the SSS and Ronald E. McNair programs and is now striving to earn her graduate degree by the end of this semester.  “I wouldn't’t be here without these programs,” she says. 

 Minh Le, a UNM student majoring in Biology and double-minoring in Chemistry and Psychology, also serves as a peer coach in the Student Support Services at UNM as a way to help first-generation students like himself.  He has plans to become a family practitioner after college. 

 Student Support Services-TRIO aims to increase the college retention and graduation rates of program participants at UNM through a holistic framework where participants receive individualized support by ad­dressing their educational and personal needs.  The program is 100% federally funded through a grant from the US Department of Education TRIO Programs.