Celebrate DCC’s First-Generation Students, Nov. 8-10

Oct. 29, 2021--DCC will join colleges and universities across the nation in recognizing National First-Generation College Celebration with a series of events beginning Monday, Nov. 8 through Wednesday, Nov. 10. All members of the College community, especially first-generation students (individuals whose parents did not attend college), are invited to participate. 

National First-Generation College Celebration was established in 2017 by the Council for Opportunity in Education and the Center for First-Generation Student Success to advance the national conversation about first-generation student experiences and outcomes, and the support needed to ensure they succeed. 

DCC joined the celebration in 2018 and 2019, drawing the College’s CSTEP, EOP and TRiO together in a series of co-hosted events and activities. While the pandemic put somewhat of a damper on last year’s activities, organizers are determined that the 2021 celebration will not go unmarked. 

"We are so proud of our first-generation students, and this celebration allows us to show it,” said Melissa Carlo, director of TRiO. “It allows us to recognize their resilience, tenacity and achievements. And it helps our entire community better understand the systemic barriers that first-generation students face. Most importantly, National First-Generation Day reminds us of the role that we can take as leaders to support this resilient population as it continues to thrive – here at DCC and beyond.” 

Currently, DCC’s student body includes 800 first-generation college students – roughly 18% of our population. Francis McClue, who is pursuing a liberal arts and science degree focusing on biology and chemistry, is one of them. Going to college is a door to a better, stable and more secure future for her and her family. 

“Having been born and raised in Jamaica, college was never really a thought for me,” said McClue. “I thought I would carry on and manage our little farm. Both my parents completed high school, but college was not a priority in their day – the family was. So, right after high school, they both started working. However, I was given the opportunity to become a resident of the United States and my possibilities grew. Taking all this into consideration, I think it is so important for me and my family that I go to college because they were never given – in some respects, denied – the opportunity.”

One of the biggest challenges McClue faced when she started DCC was culture shock. 

“I homeschooled myself for the last two years of high school, so being on a college campus in a new state was really intimidating and confusing,” she said. “I felt like I was thrust into a strange world with different social norms. Over time, with the help of the TRiO program, I became accustomed to the workings of the campus and the many unique individuals around me. I made friends and connections, and whenever I am in doubt academically or emotionally, there is always someone to talk to.”

McClue, like many first-generation students, didn’t know anything about financial aid and loans. Neither did her parents. But thankfully, she says, DCC offers many resources, which she continues to use as she navigates her academic and career path journey. She offers the following advice for other first-generation students.

“Get to know your academic advisor,” she said. “They can answer your questions, serve as a resource, let you know about scholarship and internship opportunities, and guide you. So, if you have a question, even if you think it’s silly but don’t know who to ask, they can point you in the right direction. If you’re having a problem, they can offer advice and help advocate for you.” 

Students should also take advantage of a professor’s office hours – even if it’s just to introduce themselves. “That introduction sets you apart from others,” said McClue. “And it shows your professor that you are invested in their class and willing to work. Office hours also give you time with your professor to work on areas you are struggling with.”

More words of encouragement come from Hannah Pedersen, who is pursuing elementary education studies.

"I have and always will be a fighter," she said. "I was born premature, weighing just one pound, four ounces and couldn't breathe properly so, the doctors had to put a tube down my throat. When they took it out, one of my vocal cords was paralyzed. But I am not letting my voice get in the way of my goal of getting a master's degree and becoming a teacher. Don't let anyone – or anything - get in the way of your dreams."

These are all great things to consider, says Carlo, adding a couple of ideas that first-generation students should add to their to-do lists.

“Get involved,” said Carlo. “Join a team, program, club, or student organization. Be proactive and seek out resources, including academic support and services designed for first-generation and first-year students. And always remember – you belong and deserve to be here!” 

To show support for McClue and other first-generation students, the DCC community is invited to stop by any of the following National First-Generation College Celebration activities and events: 

Monday, Nov. 8: First Gen Photo “Booth” in Drumlin cafeteria from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. 

- First-generation students, staff, faculty, and friends will have an opportunity to take a photo at the photo station. Props and frames will add to the fun. Pictures will be emailed to participants and featured on the DCC TRiO Instagram page.  

Tuesday, Nov. 9: Persistence Panel – Student Stories in Bowne 122 from 3 p.m. – 4 p.m. 

- First-generation students will share their stories about how they have successfully persisted at DCC during the COVID-19 pandemic. The discussion will focus on how students have used their community cultural wealth to persist and overcome obstacles. 

Wednesday, Nov. 10: Building Social Capital & Networking: Zoom from 7 p.m. – 8 p.m. 

- First-generation students and alumni will join Joe Reilly, academic coach in ACT, in a remote workshop, highlighting the value of building relationships and creating connections.  

Questions? Contact Melissa Carlo, director of TRiO, at melissa.carlo@sunydutchess.edu.