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Carolina F1RSTS and Carolina Grad Student F1RSTS participate in national First-Generation College Celebration

Undergraduate and graduate students stand by a large "number 1" sign.
Undergraduate and graduate students come together to celebrate their continued success as first-gens. They had the opportunity to sign their names to a display of ‘firsts.’


“Can I be cheesy for a second? I’m the culmination of my mother’s dreams. I am!” A combination of undergraduate and graduate students laughed and cheered on the proud remarks of Daniela Rodríguez, a first-year undergraduate. Pride, laughter and admiration recurred as first-generation students campus-wide shared, on a white board and in conversations with each other, what being first-gen means to them. The recent event, held in the Pit, was UNC-Chapel Hill’s participation in a national initiative celebrating first-generation college students.

Carolina Grad Student F1RSTS (CGSF), an initiative of The Graduate School’s Diversity and Student Success program, provides first-generation graduate students from UNC-Chapel Hill with a community focused on their personal and academic success. CGSF collaborated with the undergraduate first-gen initiative Carolina F1RSTS, which supports undergraduate retention initiatives and provides other student support. UNC-Chapel Hill was among colleges and universities nationwide that participated in the First-Generation College Celebration on Nov. 8.

“As someone who was both a first-generation undergraduate and graduate student, participating in the national First-Generation College Celebration is especially meaningful to me,” says Maria Dykema Erb, co-director of The Graduate School’s Diversity and Student Success. “I want all first-generation college and graduate students to be proud that they are the first in their family to achieve these milestones and are leading the way for those coming up behind them.”

Carmen Huerta-Bapat, director of Carolina F1RSTS, says she is happy to provide a platform for first-gen students to learn about each other’s experiences. “It’s really important to continue to collaborate between undergraduate and graduate students because it continues to grow the dynamic visibility that is needed to demonstrate that first-gen students are resilient, smart and work hard to get things done in the future.”

Jasmine Jackson holds a sign saying, "What does it mean to be a 'Carolina First' for you? Breaking Barriers".
Jasmine Jackson, an undergraduate in the College of Arts and Sciences, shares that being a first-gen means breaking barriers that will lead to more opportunities for herself and for future generations of her family.


Srividya Kalyanaraman sits by a large "1" representing first-generation students.
Srividya Kalyanaraman, a graduate student in biostatistics, was a first-gen undergraduate student and is now a first-gen graduate student. ‘I love that in UNC-Chapel Hill we embrace being first-gen and that this doesn’t stop in undergrad. It’s something that we continue to celebrate and I’m so glad to be part of that.’


Daniela Rodríguez signs her name on the ‘1’ sign.
Daniela Rodríguez signs her name on the ‘1’ sign.



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