The Fearless First: Celebrating the First Generation of College Students and Staff

Jordan Geriane
Staff Reporter

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The Multicultural Student Support Services Hosted its second annual event that Celebrated the First Generation of Faculty/Staff and Students of Roosevelt University

Pamela Thompson-Hill, the director of the Multicultural Student Support Services, and Peggy Valdes with the McNair Scholarship Program hosted the second annual celebration for faculty and staff who were considered “#FearlessFirst” generation college students.

On Nov. 8, the celebration took place in the Multicultural Student Support Services office on the first floor of the Auditorium Building where faculty and staff could celebrate and be recognized for their grit and fearlessness.

Last year was the first national effort to recognize first generation college students. Both Thompson-Hill and Valdes hope to contribute to the effort every year, build upon this tradition and celebrate these students in our Roosevelt community.

“We want to identify this invisible community,” Valdes said. “The goal for today’s event is to connect with faculty and staff, because the very first effort is to connect with our staff.”

Both agreed that when faculty and staff open themselves up to the community and open themselves up to their identity as first generation college students it would allow them to discover an ally.

“It is important for us to identify faculty and staff so students can see that they are not the only ones,” Valdes said. “It will help them realize that there is a greater community of people just like them all around.”

Thompson-Hill also expressed hopefulness that this event will be a small stepping stone toward breaking the stigmas and barriers that surround students and families who are considered first generation college students in today’s society.

Thompson-Hill talked about how first generation students want to make a change within themselves and their families.

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Anna Marie Schuh, a fellow faculty member at Roosevelt University, has been a part of the community since 2002, and is currently staffed as the director of masters public administration in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Schuh grew up in a blue-collar family and revealed that her father, “didn’t have enough money to send all three of his children to school.”

Furthermore, she explained, “He wasn’t going to choose between his daughters, so his daughters didn’t to go to school, but I wanted to go to school.”

While attending night school, working for the government in Chicago and saving up her hard-earned money, Schuh was able to afford classes full-time at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and subsequently earned her undergraduate degree.

After years of determination and diligence, Schuh was able to earn her PhD at UIC, all while being able to send her two eldest children to college.

Schuh, Thompson-Hill and Valdes all agreed that there are many more first generation college students out there who deserve to be recognized for their grit and bravery to create a change within their families. Without them, the essence of diversity, community and perseverance fades. All three women believe the importance of this event was to make meaningful connections in a specified community, to highlight that community and to simply make that community stronger.

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