Courtesy of Sofia Da Silva '18

Rigo Perez '17 participates in a photo shoot Monday for First-Gen Week.

December 1, 2016

Cornellians Celebrate Inaugural First Generation Students Week

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Cornell’s First Generation Student Union, in collaboration with a variety of campus organizations, made this week the first “First-Gen Week” — a celebration of first generation “intersectional identity and experience at Cornell.”

“The goal of First-Gen Week was to make first generation students aware of the resources that are available to them, as well as build community,” said Sofia Da Silva ’18, co-president of FGSU.

Da Silva called being a first generation student often an “invisible identity.”

“Since the first generation identity is an invisible identity, it makes it hard for students to collaborate unless there is a visible community for them to turn to,” she said.

The week kicked off with a photo campaign at Ho Plaza on Monday, where students took pictures highlighting what it meant for them to be first generation college students. Later in the day, a mental health support group met in the Cornell Minds Matter Resource center.

The campaign aimed to be holistic, with different events tackling different issues. Cornell Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers organized a professional development session, which informed students how to address issues in the professional world.

According to Vice-President of Operations Luis Verdi ’19, the event was essential because “information is hard to come by especially as a first generation student.”

“My parents didn’t have a resume and they’ve never held professional jobs, so without workshops such as these I would have been really lost,” Verdi said.

Verdi also said that these professional development resources can assist first generation students in discovering new opportunities.

“I think it really makes an impact because this can help many first generation students learn about what it means to be professional and possibly even open up opportunities for jobs or internships that may have otherwise been closed,” he said.

Speaking about the inhibitions and stigmas first generation students face, Jaëlle Sannon ’19, vice president of public relations, said she believes that “this week is forcing everyone to see that first generation students come from every walk of life and that we are here.”

Sannon said that the organization “hopes to reach out to more first generation students in the Cornell community and to show that we might be ‘first but not alone’ in this experience.”