PCC Celebrates ‘National First-Gen Day’

Panelists Don King, Cassandra Rhodes, Tiffany Vega and Steffen McGhee, left to right, discuss their experiences as the first members of their families to attend college. The forum was part of PCC's celebration of National First-Generation Day on Nov. 8 — the same day federal Higher Education Act of 1965 legislation was signed into law 57 years ago.

WINTERVILLE—Tuesday was “National First-Generation Day,” and Pitt Community College marked the occasion with a program celebrating students, faculty and staff who were the first members of their families to attend college. 

Organized by Pitt’s First-Gen Forward Developmental Committee, the Nov. 8 event was a way “to honor all past and present first-gen students,” according to Dr. Travis Kinsey, PCC director of TRiO Programs. It was also a chance, he said, for PCC stakeholders to learn best practices to support first-gen populations and provide them strategies for navigating challenges. 

Kinsey said Pitt’s celebration began with the unveiling of a new “First-Gen Resource” webpage. Created by the PCC Library, the page features institutional and scholarly resources to support first-generation students along their academic journeys. 

A panel discussion featuring PCC biotechnology student Cassandra Rhodes and Pitt employees Don King, Steffen McGhee and Tiffany Vega followed the webpage presentation. The panelists shared why they chose to be the first in their families to attend college and how they knew it was the right decision. They also spoke about overcoming challenges as first-generation students and what they accomplished through their perseverance. 

“I loved the event,” said PCC student NaKierra Maske. “It was extremely helpful to hear the stories of other first-generation students. I just hate that I had to leave early to go to class.” 

Like Maske, student Priscilla Pippins said she, too, found it helpful to hear the panelists’ success stories. “Hearing from them made my degree seem attainable, because it is really a struggle sometimes,” she said. 

Letita Joyner, PCC TRiO Student Support Services program coordinator, helped facilitate the panel discussion along with PCC Student Success Navigator Jordan Braswell. She said she was able to identify with many of the experiences the panelists shared and added that their stories were “a reminder to all to continue to persist in the pursuit of their dreams and goals.” 

Spearheaded by its TRiO programs, PCC began working toward building a stronger campus community for first-generation students in 2018. Several months later, the college was selected to join the Center for First-Generation Student Success’s inaugural First Forward cohort, and last year, it earned the organization’s “First-Gen Forward Advisory Institution” designation.