FAMU TRIO program celebrates first-generation college students

TRIO program staff at Set Friday
Photo submitted by Kayla Lawson

Being the first in the family to pursue higher education is something worth celebrating, and FAMU’s TRIO program did just that on Thursday, Nov. 8.

Federal TRIO programs are a result of the 1965 Higher Education Act (HEA), which has helped millions of low-income, first-generation and disadvantaged students become the first members of their families to earn college degrees. Nov. 8 marked the 53rd anniversary of the signing.

The Council for Opportunity for Education and Center for First-Generation Student Success’ 2nd Annual First-Generation College Celebration were present on the set and featured a DJ and free refreshments for attendees.

Michaé Cain, a student intern for TRIO and graduate assistant for the department of social work, helped prepare the celebration and is a first-generation college student herself. Cain stated that being the first in her family to attend an institution for higher education is bittersweet and comes with a lot of added responsibility.

“Being the first means that all eyes are on you,” Cain said, “and it is (at) most times pressuring to know that all your siblings, your parents, grandparents and community members are looking at you.

She then added, “Also, when your parents or guardians have no idea of the post-secondary experience it makes it even more difficult to navigate through university.”

TRIO program staff at Set Friday
Photo submitted by Kayla Lawson

The celebration was well received by attendees, especially sophomore fine arts transfer student Aquilla Johnson who spoke on her experience as a first-generation college student at the event.

Johnson is also the first in her family to go to college and said she is proud to blaze a new trail for the younger members of her family. She said she appreciated being acknowledged for her hard work.

“Events like this are important because it allows an individual to feel seen and heard for all of their accomplishments and how far they have come,” said Johnson.

“Being a first-generation college student means that I have paved a new way for another generation to follow after me,” Johnson continued. “It means I have taken a chance to accomplish a goal that maybe my past relatives could not achieve, and I thank them for trying to pave the way for me,” said Johnson.

TRIO’s Educational Talent Search Director Senovia Williams stated that first-generation college students deserve support and acknowledgment. She also points out the importance of FAMU staff who were first-generation college students forming connections with the current first-generation students on campus.

“First-generation college students are the trailblazers within their families and communities,” Williams said. “They will help lead the way for other individuals and will be able to provide their younger siblings or family members with support through the process. Without guidance and support, many of the first-gen students will have to learn by trial and error.”

The TRIO programs offer many other services for first-generation college students and all current college students. FAMU’s TRIO programs fall under the Division of Student Affairs and have existed here at FAMU for over 35 years.