As the sun rose above College Hill on Nov. 8, it illuminated a temporary artful addition to campus: a sign installation along popular walkways that featured photos of individual Hamilton students, faculty, and staff members.

The Hamiltonians included are among the College’s first-generation trailblazers, or those who were or are the first in their families to attend college. The campaign — known as FirstUp  — was part of a week-long effort that coincided with National First-Generation Day, an occasion where colleges and universities raise awareness and celebrate the first-generation identity and experience. It was spearheaded by student leaders Carlo Benavides '23, Grisha Hatavets '25, Mil Fienco '23, and Salwa Sidahmed '23 along with various departments and offices, including the Dean of Students Office, Days-Massolo CenterCareer Center, and Wellin Museum of Art.

I'm First Lawn Signs
Photo: Zack Stanek

Students who took part in the campaign shared what it means to them to be first-gen, while faculty and staff members joined in to illustrate how far-reaching the community is on campus and that there are professors, advisors, mentors, and leaders who understand what it's like and can offer support.

The events calendar for the celebration noted swag tables, a life skills event, a FirstUp celebration, and reception at the Wellin Museum that included a tour of first-generation artists featured in the Dialogues Across Disciplines exhibit, and an activity planned by Hamilton’s QuestBridge Scholars Network.

In 2017, the Council for Opportunity in Education and the Center for First-Generation Student Success launched the inaugural First-Generation College Celebration. Given its continued success, the event is now an annual national partnership between the two organizations.

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