UIW Celebrates First Generation Students at National First-Generation Day Celebration

November 10, 2023

November 8 is formally recognized as National First-Generation Day in recognition of the students, faculty, administrators and staff who are the first in their families to pursue a four-year undergraduate degree.

This week, UIW celebrated its own first-gen students at its second annual First-Generation Celebration. First gen students were welcomed to Dubuis Lawn to celebrate their accomplishments and find support at the event that also included mariachi music, delicious food, and presentations from UIW first-gen alumni.

Attending students were given T-shirts so that they could show off their first-gen pride. Students preparing to graduate this December also had the opportunity to pick up their official first-gen stoles and see them on display.

Teofilo Reyes Jr., assistant director of Leadership and Global Engagement for UIW’s Ettling Center for Civic Leadership and Sustainability, spoke at the event as a UIW first-gen alumnus and current staff member. He shared his experiences with the University through the years, the challenges he endured as a first-gen student, and how the school supported him throughout his journey.

Soon-to-be graduate of the class of December 2023 Nicole Hernandez delivered remarks donning her commencement attire, including her new stole. Her friends and family in the audience wore proud expressions as they watched her share her story.

Hernandez shared that she and her father used to pass by UIW frequently when she was growing up. Her father frequently commented that he hoped one of his daughters would one day attend and graduate from UIW. With tears in her eyes, and with her father looking on, she shared how much gratitude and pride she felt for being able to make her father’s dream a reality.

While Hernandez represented students near the finish line of their higher education journeys, Sarah Alvarado a first-gen, first-year student, shared how UIW has supported her so far in her first semester in college.

“UIW has helped me by providing resources to guide me through my degree program,” she explained. “UIW’s first-generation events help me connect with other first-gen students throughout campus. Through connecting to other students like me, we help guide each other to what we want to achieve.