5C First Gen Week brings festivities to first-generation student community

Two male college students stand behind a small ice cream freezer in front of Harvey Mudd's dining hall, while a female student eats ice cream in the foreground
Angel Sierra HM ’20 and Phousawanh Peaungvongpakdy HM ’22 serve ice cream outside of Harvey Mudd’s Hoch-Shanahan Dining Commons for 5C First Gen Week. (Domenico Ottolia • The Student Life)

The first annual 5C First Gen Week kicked off this Monday, commencing a week-long celebration of students’ first-generation identity.

Organized by first-generation student coalitions at each college, the week consisted of daily events spanning the 5Cs, including a kick-off event with donuts and coffee, a photobooth event to increase first-generation visibility at Hoch-Shanahan Dining Commons, a screening and discussion of the film “Freedom Writers” and a first-gen open-mic night at the Scripps College’s Motley Coffeehouse. 

The week will wrap up at Pomona College on Friday, where students will paint Walker Wall as part of First Gen Field Day and dance the night away at the “#CelebrateFirstGen” party in Doms Lounge.

Pomona FLI Scholars co-president Karla Ortiz PO ’20 acknowledged that 5C First Gen Week addressed a long-standing need of the colleges’ individual first-generation organizations to collaborate.

“There has been a large necessity to have a united 5C first-gen/low-income community, because we are often involved in our own schools [and] forget … that our community is stronger and bigger than our own schools [individually],” she said via message. 

Daniel Caballero, Pomona College assistant director of First Generation, Low-Income and Undocumented/DACAmented Student Programs, echoed Ortiz’s sentiment.

“There’s tremendous value in creating partnership opportunities and establishing strong networks across the 5C’s first-gen programming,” Caballero said via email. “Cross-campus collaboration … allows for fruitful interactions amongst an amazing cross section of people. Ultimately, bringing together multiple offices and involvement from all the Claremont Colleges allows for greater outcomes that perhaps no one office or institution would be able to reach alone.”

5C First Gen Week differs from separate week-long first-generation events, like Money Matters Week, in that the programming is specifically focused on festivity and pride. Whereas Money Matters Week events involve panels and faculty mixers alongside its more celebratory events, 5C First Gen Week is more jubilant, evident in the week’s promotional hashtag and theme, “#CelebrateFirstGen.”

“Visibility and celebration are at the core of all of this,” said Aileen Villa SC ’22, president of Scripps College’s QuestBridge chapter. “It’s such a beautiful thing that there’s so many first-gen students here. Education and support are always needed, but celebrating is an important part of [the identity]. You’re the first one [at college], and you should celebrate that.”

Monica Lopez CM ’20, vice president of Claremont McKenna College’s first-generation club 1Gen, organized the week’s kick-off at CMC and noted how the event’s high visibility at The Hub allowed for its attendees to feel supported by the greater student community.

“We had students come up and ask what this event was for, and it was great to see that they appreciated the … celebration of first-gen students,” she said via email. “People genuinely support [us] and are there for us, so it was an amazing feeling to be surrounded by this sense of warmth within the community.”

Socorro Nieves PZ ’20, intern at Pitzer College’s FirstGen program and an organizer of Pitzer’s 5C First Gen Week movie screening, also spoke to the importance of giving the greater student body awareness of first-generation students through initiatives like photos on display at dining halls or open-mic nights at the Motley.

“These [events] … [give] the First Gen community an image at the 5Cs,” Nieves said via email. “It allows other people to see that we are here and that we belong.” 

First-generation students felt that the week was necessary and provided them with an assurance that can be lacking at times at the 5Cs.

“The first-gen events on campus have only reaffirmed why I decided to enroll in Pomona and come to Claremont,” Candy Lucero PO ’23 said. “To know that there is a community that supports each other, even when it feels like I am unsupported by the administration, provides me with the security I need to prosper in school.”

The week reassured students who might have felt they may not have a place at the 5Cs. 

“First Gen Week makes me feel like my identity matters and has a presence on campus,” Shuxin Angela Zhou PO ’22 said. “All throughout my first year, and even now sometimes, I feel scared that I [don’t belong], and events like First Gen Week are really healing.”

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