The Daily Gamecock

Campus celebrates first generation college students

In honor of National First-Generation College Student Celebration Day, a committee composed of several different offices on campus hosted a table on Davis Field to recognize and celebrate first-generation college students at USC. 

Ashley Bailey-Taylor is the assistant director for the Gamecock Guarantee program in the office of student financial aid and scholarships. Within the program, Bailey-Taylor works with many first-generation students. 

“We wanted to open it up more to first generation students at the university because we know there are more here than that qualify for Gamecock Guarantee,” Bailey-Taylor said. “That’s what we are doing today. So we're really opening that up to all first-generation students at USC.” 

Shanna Graham, who serves as the Gamecock Guarantee coordinator, was a first-generation student who became inspired by the opportunity scholars program at USC. 

“It’s just nice, even as a first-generation professional, to be able to mentor, provide guidance and assistance to those who are first-generation,” Graham said. “We’re just excited to have this platform and just to let students know that we appreciate them and we see them.” 

The event gave students the opportunity to meet other first-generation students at USC and share their experiences. 

“I definitely think it’s a game-changer because when you think of first-gen, it is an invisible identity and you really have to be able to self-disclose,” Graham said. “So, having an event like this lets students know that yes, it is OK to not only say that you are first-generation but to have a sense of pride with having the title of being first-gen.”

During the event, President Pastides and Cocky both made appearances. Students had the opportunity to meet and take photos with them.

“We’ve seen students that are taking pictures and they’re proud to be here,” Bailey-Taylor said. “They’re proud to show that they are first-generation, so that’s exciting.”

To add onto the recognition of National First-Generation College Student Celebration Day, a panel comprised of first-generation faculty and staff spoke on their experiences later in the day at the Booker T. Washington auditorium.

“To see the amount of faculty and staff that are first-gen, it’s inspiring and I’m just so grateful that they were able to come forward too,” Graham said. “It all starts with the conversation and I think just having that direct link for the students and the faculty to see each other, it’s a really awesome takeaway.” 

Students also took part in helping to put on the event. Hannah White, a first-year undeclared student, serves on the freshman council of Student Government and on the inclusion and equity committee. She, along with other members of student government, came out to Davis Field to volunteer at the event. 

“Myself, I'm not a first-generation student but just seeing all of them and seeing them being celebrated ... just being proud of how far they’ve come and how far they’ll continue to grow, that's been my favorite part,” White said.

Bailey-Taylor hopes to make this first-generation celebration day an annual event held every Nov. 8, provided it is a weekday. 

“I think that even students that are not first-generation will understand what being first-generation is and they also support it as well,” Bailey-Taylor said. “We just want the students to feel supported so that’s really what we’re here for.”