GV holds annual First-Generation College Day celebration


GVL / Sydney Lim

Zoë Murphy, Staff Writer

Grand Valley State University hosted its annual First-Generation College Day on Nov. 8.

First-Generation College Day is dedicated to the recognition of the group of students who have parents that did not complete a four-year college or university degree. Without having their parents as a resource, these students have learned to adapt to circumstances that can only be understood by personal experience.

The First-Generation College Day Celebration was a product of the TRIO Student Support Services, or TRIO SSS. Embedded in GVSU’s Career Center, TRIO SSS is based on “providing opportunities for academic development, assisting students with basic college requirements and serves to motivate students toward the successful completion of their post-secondary education,” according to the program’s website.

TRIO SSS is a government-funded program based on student support. “We support first-generation or low-income students until they graduate,” said Director of TRIO SSS STEM and Health Sciences Linda Rettig.

GVSU has sought to make available multiple opportunities for low-income and first-generation students to come if they need aid in their college experience.

“(First-generation students) have no one to ask questions, they don’t know what they need until something happens so we provide holistic advising, we are there for them,” Rettig said.

The First-Generation College Day Celebration was a two-part event.

The first was “Treats with TRIO,” which was held in the lobby of the GVSU’s Kirkhof Center on its Allendale Campus. This celebration served as an advertisement for the programs and was designed to assist in reaching out to students.

This smaller event, Rettig said, was more of an opportunity to recruit potential program students.

The other element of the event was the actual celebration, which took place in the Cook-DeWitt Center that evening with performances, music, prizes, gifts, food and games.

Among those in attendance was GVSU President Philomena Mantella, a first-generation student herself.

“(The celebration) was a great presentation,” said Assistant Vice President for Federal TRIO Programs Dr. Nykia Gains. “We didn’t know what to expect, so we’re really engaged, it was very interactive. (We had) lots of fun giveaways and we had some amazing student groups perform like K-Pop and Rhythm and Blues.”

Though the celebration was an entertaining affair for many attendees, there was also a seriousness under the surface.

“Navigating higher-ed is kind of like understanding resources,” Rettig said. “It’s really just exposing them to all of the services, and I think a lot of students even second generation and above, sometimes you don’t realize the amount of resources that are on campus.”

The First-Generation College Day Celebration was not only a celebration meant to encourage light-hearted fun, but was an event with meaning as well.

Both members of TRIO SSS mentioned their passion for the work they do. They spoke of how important it is for all students, especially first-generation college students, to ask for help when they are struggling.

“We do academic support, we do workshops, seminars, educational and cultural events,” Gains said. “We do a lot in different ways to help (students) engage.”

GVSU provides an abundance of resources to students who are struggling, with TRIO SSS being one of the many places students can go when they are in need or simply curious as to what these departments provide.