TRiO Celebrating First-Generation College Students

PCC Director of TRiO Programs Travis Kinsey (center) says the “IamFirstGen Campaign" is a celebration of first-generation college students, like Antwanique Ham (left) and Tonaria Powell. The students, clad in their "I'm First" t-shirts promoting the campaign, are the first members of their respective families to go to college. Both Greenville residents, Ham and Powell have been taking college courses at PCC for the past several years through their enrollment in the Pitt County Schools Early College High School. Now ECHS seniors, Ham is well on her way toward a four-year business degree, while Powell is making steady progress on an Associate in Science Degree from PCC’s University Transfer program.

WINTERVILLE—Pitt Community College TRiO programs are in the midst of a yearlong campaign to celebrate first-generation college students and emphasize the importance of their presence on campus.

The “IamFirstGen Campaign,” which got underway in August, involves TRiO’s Student Support Services and Educational Opportunity Center initiatives partnering with the college’s Title III Grant project to increase awareness of first-generation college students while making them feel at home on campus.

“The goal of the ‘IamFirstGen Campaign’ is to build a stronger first-generation campus community,” says PCC Director of TRiO Programs Travis Kinsey. “This effort will give students, staff and faculty members an opportunity to build an invaluable network of peers, while enhancing social support, advocacy, leadership and academics among first-generation college students.”

Kinsey said colleges across the nation are pursuing first-generation college students to diversify their student bodies culturally, socially and economically. In addition to the unique voices and opinions they bring to on-campus discussions, he explained that individuals who are the first members of their families to attend college are typically focused, driven and motivated to ‘go against the grain.’

“Being a first-generation college student/graduate is something to be celebrated,” Kinsey said. “Often, these individuals become role models for their families and members of the community, many of whom have not attended college.”

Thus far, Kinsey said “IamFirstGen” has featured video profiles of first-generation college students and a pair of TRiO events honoring them. Both events, he said, took place during PCC’s “Week of Welcome” at the start of the current semester. The first, an “Education and Empowerment Seminar,” gave first-generation college students and employees a chance to share their “stories of courage, tenacity, resilience and extraordinary success,” while the second was an outdoor celebration to officially kick off the campaign.

According to Kinsey, future “IamFirstGen” activities will include a “Faculty and First-Generation Lecture Series” and a “First-Gen Fellows Program.” The lecture series, he said, will give faculty members a chance to discuss their classroom experiences with first-generation college students and offer best practices for teaching them. He said the Fellows program will offer students an opportunity to shadow PCC administrators, instructors and staff as well as members of the community in order to learn more about careers and interests.

Kinsey said the campaign will also include “First-Gen Fridays,” which are monthly cultural enrichment activities that give first-generation college students opportunities to interact with faculty and staff.