Northwestern to Celebrate First-Generation College Day

November 15, 2022

First-Gen Celebration Day 22

Northwestern Oklahoma State University is celebrating National First-Generation College Day Nov. 17, recognizing the students attending or planning to attend college who will be the first members of their families to earn college degrees.

Northwestern was awarded a $500 grant to support the First-Generation College Student Celebration Day. A First-Generation College student is someone whose parents/guardians did not graduate with a four-year college degree.

Northwestern’s First Gen Club, Upward Bound, Student Support Services and LASSO will have tables set up in the morning outside the Student Center to inform First-Generation College students about the services and organizations available to first-gen students on campus at Northwestern.

There will be a photo booth, First-Gen stickers and an interactive art installation. The organizers have been shooting some short videos with First-Gen students, faculty and staff that is part of a social media campaign. A video booth will be set up on Thursday as well.

“I’m excited to be able to celebrate a group of students who don’t get celebrated often,” Tosh Miller,  TRIO-SSS director, said. “First-Gen students have a significantly lower six-year graduation rate than legacy students and often don’t know what resources are available to them.

“We have been working with First-Gen faculty, staff and current students to create an event that will connect other First-Gen students with resources, clubs and opportunities on campus they may not know about. We hope to provide information and generate excitement about the opportunities that First-Gen students have to complete their degree and create a new family legacy.”

Upward Bound and Student Support Services worked together to submit the grant application. Only 50 grants were awarded from the Center for First-Generation Student Success, which is an initiative of NASPA (National Association of Student Personnel Administrators) and The Suder Foundation.

These groups will celebrate First-Generation Day with the following events, 9 a.m. to noon, located in front of the J.W. Martin Library open to all Northwestern students and employees:

  • Free donuts (until they run out)
  • Three food trucks (serving food around 10:30 a.m. in the west horseshoe parking lot)
  • Corn hole boards
  • T-shirts and stickers
  • Photo booth

The first national First-Generation College Celebration Day occurred in 2017 when the nonprofit Council for Opportunity in Education (COE) encouraged institutions nationwide on or around Nov. 8 to celebrate first-generation college students or graduates.

“First-generation students have repeatedly demonstrated that supporting and encouraging promising students, often low-income, whose parents never went to college, is one of the great investments our country can make,” said COE President Maureen Hoyler. “Their success stories are worth celebrating.”

COE selected Nov. 8 to honor the anniversary of the signing of the Higher Education Act of 1965. This landmark legislation emerged as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty. It ushered in programs, particularly the Federal TRIO programs, necessary for postsecondary access, retention, and completion for low-income, potential first-generation college graduates.

Now the nationwide celebration is carried out by scores of institutions nationwide. COE, in partnership with NASPA’s Center for First-Generation Student Success, encourages events such as panel discussions, open houses, and student rallies to celebrate the achievements of first-generation college-goers and also provides approximately $25,000 in grant awards to assist organizations in hosting their local celebrations.

First-generation students who enroll in college do so against the odds and should be commended for their efforts. Research shows that students whose parents do not have a college degree are far less likely to enroll than those whose parents graduated from college, according to the Indicators of Higher Education Equity in the U.S.: 2022 Historical Trend Report.

The report showed that 93 percent of the children of college graduates enroll in college within eight years of high school graduation, while just 72 percent of students from families in which neither parent holds a college degree enroll within eight years of high school graduation. (Equity Indicator 1h(I))

“This event is important because there are a number of First-Generation Northwestern students who do not know about the resources that are available to them on campus,” Miller said. “Or, that it is a big deal to be the first in their family to graduate from college. We want to see all of our students succeed, and provide the resources to help our First-Generation Students on campus. We also want to show that being First-Generation can change your family tree, and build solidarity and relationships between First-Gen students, faculty, staff and alumni.”

Many well-known and successful Americans across professions and industries were once first-generation students, among them Academy Award-winning actress Viola Davis, US astronaut Ronald McNair, best-selling author Sarah Smarsh, journalist Wil Haygood and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Many of them are alumni of the Federal TRIO programs.

For more information on Northwestern’s Student Support Services visit or contact Miller at (580) 327-8119 or For more information on Northwestern’s LASSO project visit or contact project director Lisa Cline at (580) 327-8131 or For more information on Northwestern’s Upward Bound visit or contact project director Jaunita Dotson at (580) 327-8113 or


Erin Davis, University Relations Specialist; 580-327-8480 

Northwestern Oklahoma State University

709 Oklahoma Blvd., Alva, OK 73717
Phone: (580) 327-1700

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