By: Matthew Beyer
USC Upstate is a higher education institution comprised of 15% first-generation students. From Nov. 1-9, these students, along with their classmates and professors, celebrated their achievements.
The week began on Nov. 1 with the event “Stu the Rock.” This event took place in Jazzman’s Quad. Each month, the rock is painted by different clubs and organizations. This month, the painting of the rock signified First Generation College Celebration Week.
The second event of the week on Nov. 6 was the Gallery Walk in the Campus Life Center Front Lobby. First-generation students, faculty, and staff signed posters to signify they are first-generation college students. During the gallery walk, also students could read about first-generation college students and their accomplishments.
On Nov. 7, the first event of the day was a Student Loan Education Webinar to provide information about student loans. On the same evening, First Gen College Bowling Night took place. This event partnered with three other local colleges/universities, Converse College, Presbyterian College, and Wofford College.
On Nov. 8, First Gen celebrations began with a Resume Drop-In Workshop provided by the Career Management office at USC Upstate. The second event of Nov. 8 took place in the URC Greatroom and was a First Up: Trivia Night that allowed students to test their trivia knowledge.
Finally, the last event of the week was the Faculty/Staff vs. Student Intramurals that took place in the Health Education Complex Gymnasium on Nov. 9, an exhilarating way to end the week with healthy competition.
First Generation College Celebration Week served to recognize students who have overcome unique challenges, celebrate their resilience, and highlight the obstacles to reaching where they are today.
Jenni Elizalde, a first-generation freshman, and early childhood major at USC Upstate gained a lot from this week.
“As a first-generation college student, there are things that I am still trying to learn. First generation week makes students feel appreciated and allows us to gain knowledge in a couple of areas. This week was full of activities such as gallery walks, loan seminars, resume workshops, and other fun activities," Elizalde said. "I participated in the gallery walks. In this experience, I was able to read different stories about different first-generation students and their accomplishments. I am glad to be part of an institution that appreciates and acknowledges first-generation students. USC Upstate is a great learning environment because some of my professors were in my shoes years ago.”
First-generation status in one's family can initially be intimidating, but this week has supplied these students with essential resources for success.
Freshmen Child Development and Family Studies major Avah Rios gained a new insight from the week.
“One of the events I attended for first generation week was the connect and thrive dinner presented by Tri-Alpha. Tri-Alpha is an honors society for high achieving first generation students. At this event we got to hear from the officers of Tri-Alpha about certain aspects of college life. We were able to ask questions and gain insights on some of their experiences," Rios said. "It was very helpful to hear questions my peers were asking and opening up to new perspectives. We were given valuable advice on how to balance schoolwork and other responsibilities, being involved on campus, studying strategies, mental health and more. It felt like a safe space to share our experiences and ask questions.”