First-Generation Student Graduation Celebration set for May 13 in Forum Hall

Tatiana Briceño, then-sophomore in mathematics and Spanish and Leslie Ramirez, then-senior in English education and Spanish translation, take photos during National First-Generation College Student Celebration Day on Friday, Nov. 8, 2019. (Archive photo by Dylan Connell | Collegian Media Group)

The First-Generation Student Graduation Celebration is set for 7 p.m. on May 13 in Forum Hall. About 150 students and their families are expected to attend to commemorate the momentous occasion.

The Office of First-generation Students offers aid to students whose parents or guardians did not graduate from a four-year university. Rebeca Paz, assistant director for the Office of First-generation Students and one of the coordinators for the event, said she enjoys serving her students.

“The Office of First-generation Students supports first-generation students at Kansas State University,” Paz said. “We basically support the students, and then we connect students to campus resources. We coordinate efforts across the university to serve them, and we foster a first-generation community.”

One of the many ways the office serves its students is through the graduation celebration. Paz expressed her excitement for the fifth-annual event.

“Part of supporting our students is celebrating our students and their accomplishments,” Paz said. “Because they are the first in their family to have graduated from college … they’re paving the way for the rest of their family members, so their graduation is also an accomplishment for their whole family.”

The students who attend the event will walk across the stage in Forum Hall, state their name and major and will receive a cord to wear to their commencement ceremony.

(Photo courtesy of Rebeca Paz)
(Photo courtesy of Rebeca Paz)

“During this celebration, we also present the students with green cords that they wear to graduation,” Paz said. “We chose green because green symbolizes resilience, and our first-generation students are resilient.”

During the ceremony, Cadence Ciesielski, senior in philosophy and Spanish, will give the keynote speech. Ciesielski said she is eager to speak at the event.

“There’s going to be a lot of recognition for what first-gen students have accomplished and what they will accomplish in the future,” Ciesielski said. “I’m expecting it to be a really good night.”

Ciesielski is a member of Tri-Alpha, an invitation-only society that is relatively new to campus.

“Tri-Alpha is a national honor society for first-gen students, and K-State actually selected their inaugural class last year, so that’s part of the reason that there’s not a lot of awareness about it,” Ciesielski said.

For many students, being a first-generation college graduate has influenced their experience in a positive way at K-State — Ciesielski included.

“I think that being first-gen has been an important part of my experience at K-State,” Ciesielski said. “Especially as a land-grant institution, I think it’s really important that we uplift other students in Kansas communities that want to attend college, even if their families haven’t.”

Ciesielski is a leader in her community and said she is passionate about helping others realize their potential.

“It’s important to uplift first-gen students and to not place limitations on yourself or others,” Ciesielski said. “Don’t place limitations on yourself if you feel like you can’t do something. It is possible, you just need resources, support.”

The event on May 13 will acknowledge the hard work and achievements of the graduating first-generation students.

“We’re proud of them,” Paz said. “It’s exciting for us to see their accomplishments, and we also want to say they belong to the university. First-generation students enrich the campus experience by their presence.”