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First gen students celebrate this month

By Katelyn Marshall

Volunteer State Community College will celebrate first generation students throughout November, including a First-Generation Student Celebration Thursday, Nov. 7.

The First-Generation Student Celebration will be on the Gallatin Campus at 12:45 p.m. in the Mary Cole Nichols Dining Rooms A and B (Lunch) according to an e-mail from Eric Melcher, Coordinator of Public Relations and Marketing at Vol State.

The other locations and times will be at the Highland Crest at 12:45 p.m., Zoom Room 146 and at noon until 3 p.m. at the First-Gen Table. The next location that the First-Generation Student Celebration will be at is on the Cookeville Campus from 8 a.m.-3:30 p.m. at the First-Gen Table only.

“The event started in 2017,” said Dr. Jerry Faulkner, Vol State President. “It was sponsored by the Council for Opportunity in Education and the American Association of Colleges and Universities. It was held Nov. 8 to commemorate the passage by Congress of the first version of the Higher Education Act in 1965.”

Faulkner is also a First-Generation Student, explaining that his mother finished high school and his father earned his high school equivalency after returning from service in World War II.

“They supported me in going to college but didn’t have personal experience to draw from to advise me,” he said.

He added that he was not successful in his first attempt at college through, “no faults of my parents. I just wasn’t a very good student. After stopping out for 10 years, I realized my job only provided a pay check and an ulcer. I determined that the way to change my trajectory was to complete my education, so I returned to college at the age of 30.”

Faulkner said that he is the first in his family to graduate from college and obtain graduate degrees.

The way Faulkner said he became involved in the First-Generation events was because he saw an announcement last year on an Internet information sources that he is subscribed to. He explained that he shared it with the Public Relations (PR) director as something that they wanted to do this year.

“Andrea Bodie, Director of the Trio Program at Vol State works with many first-generation students and she has been instrumental in the planning for the event,” said Faulkner.

Faulkner explained how the First-Generation Student Celebration event benefits students by saying that first-generation students oftentimes do not have a support base at home that can help them navigate the college going process.

“I think this celebration will reinforce that there are lots of folks here at Vol State ready and able to support our students,” he said.

This is the first year Vol State has participated, according to Faulkner.

“We are eager to see how many students participate. We are also eager to see how many faculty and staff show their support for first-generation students,” said Faulkner

Faulkner explained how important it is that Vol State host these events and show support.

“At Vol State we often say, ‘Student success is job one and it is everyone’s job one. Events like this put our words into action to support all our students regardless of their situation and goals,” he said.

During the First-Generation Student Celebration, there will be a discussion with first-generation college students, faculty, and staff hosted by Faulkner. Everyone is encouraged to wear their First-Gen t-shirt and/or button.

There will be prize drawings for gear and book scholarships for students, according to the event description provided by Melcher.

There will be several other First-Generation student events. A complete list of First-Generation events can be found on the Vol State blog.

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