On Tuesday, Nov. 8, Rowan College of South Jersey–Cumberland (RCSJ) lauded the accomplishments of first-generation students at its National First-Generation College Celebration. The event was organized by TRIO and Student Life.
Administrators, faculty and students gathered together at the Cumberland Campus Grove to celebrate the courage and pioneering mindset of students who were the first in their families to attend an institution of higher learning.
National First-Generation College Celebration day was created to mark the anniversary of the signing of the Higher Education Act (HEA) of 1965. According to firstgen.naspa.org, “HEA was intended to help level a playing field that for too long had been weighed against Americans from minority and low-income backgrounds.
“Additionally, HEA ushered in programs, particularly the Federal TRIO programs, necessary for postsecondary access, retention, and completion for low-income, potential first-generation college graduates.”
“The Higher Education Act created the opportunity for these federal programs, such as TRIO, to specifically work with these students to help finance and increase their access to education,” said Iris Torres, director, TRIO/Student Support Services, Cumberland campus.
“Most of these students have not had examples or role models who attended college and obtained a four-year degree,” she continued. “So, the intent of this event is to celebrate their achievements of … making it this far.”
It is reported that there are approximately 1,300 first-generation students currently enrolled at RCSJ–Cumberland. According to RCSJ records, nearly 200 first-gen students graduated from the Cumberland campus in 2021.
The new TRIO director, who is in her 10th year working at the College, noted that several RCSJ–Cumberland faculty members – including Torres herself – graduated from their respective colleges having been first-gen students. She sees this as a prime opportunity to create a welcoming atmosphere for those students on campus due to their shared experiences.
A few RCSJ students, including Danieliz Figueroa, talked about the pride they feel being the first in their families to work towards obtaining a college degree while setting a positive precedent for others.
“I really enjoy being a first-generation student, especially for my kids,” said Figueroa, sophomore business administration major and TRIO student. “I’m their mom so obviously they’re going to see me in college and see me graduate. After that, they’ll hopefully follow [me] and go to college as well.”
For more information about TRIO/Student Support Services, visit RCSJ.edu/TRIO.