“First-Gen to Me Means Prosperity”: ACC Honors First-Gen Students


Image via Logan Blomquist

First-Generation Celebration from outside the Summit Room at the Arapahoe Community College, Littleton Campus on Nov. 7, 2022.

Editors’ Note: Noah Grenoble is a TRIO student.

On Nov. 7, TRIO and Student Life hosted an event called First-Generation Celebration. Over 50 people from different walks of life and ages five to 50 came to the Summit Room to eat an Italian dinner, laugh, hear speeches and play games together.

TRIO is an Organization that is governmentally funded to provide assistance for first-generation students, Low-income students, or students with a documented disability. and it is to help those students succeed in college. For more information look for their website here.

The event celebrated first-generation (first-gen) students who are at Arapahoe Community College (ACC). With 28.2% (5,018) of ACC students being first-generation, ACC wanted to pay tribute to students aiming to be the first in their families to get a college degree.

One first-gen student who shared her story was Jaime Treadwell who works in the Workforce and Community Program. “As a first-gen Student I had a single mother, I was the oldest of four, and she had me in high school, so she had no knowledge regarding how to get there. And no knowledge of how to enroll. So luckily, I applied myself via scholarships and concurrent enrollment. And I was able to figure it out somewhat,” said Treadwell. 

Treadwell talked about some struggles that first-gen students might face: “at our table, we were talking about getting our taxes from those parents as a single parent. She was like, ‘I do not even know where those are.’” 

She expressed that she felt hesitant asking about these documents because this situation was so foreign to her and her mom.

Afterward, Lisa Christiansen shared her first-gen story. “I didn’t know what first-gen was until I was in graduate school. My family was not college educated,” she said. Christiansen began to say that her sister went to college and had the mindset that if her sister went to college, she must not be qualified to be a first-gen student.

“I was hanging out with my friends and they’re like, ‘did your parents complete college?’ I’m like ‘no, they just completed high school.’ Then they were like ‘you’re first gen,’ and I was like ‘no, I don’t think I am,’ and then they were like ‘you are.’”

Christensen gave advice to students of ACC. She shared that her “one piece of advice is to look at this community you have here, first-gen students, first-gen faculty, and staff… leverage those resources, use them. We are here to support you, we value you. We want you to succeed towards your goals. Come find us and we will help you.”

As the event carried on, students began to share their first-gen stories. Natalie Grai, a TRIO student, and a student at ACC shared her story with the Pinnacle, saying, “so I joined upward bound which is a branch of trio back in high school and it basically was a college preparatory program so because I’m first-generation they helped me not only prepare to go to college but also like what I would need to do and they kind of helped me plan ahead.” 

Another student who was willing to share their story is Janelle Schwarting. Schwarting is majoring in pre-nursing and is expecting to graduate with an associate degree in 2024.

She described her first-gen fest experience, saying, “so, I have never been to a first-gen before. It was very very cool. I got to meet many different people who are also in the same boat as I am being the first-generation. I also met and learned [about] brand new friends, which is great, because coming into a community like this, you have so many people around you that you don’t know. So, to take the time out and met somebody was great.”

When asked what the first-generation meant to her, Schwarting replied, “first-gen to me means prosperity. It means bringing in more potential than you imagined. Navigating college was very difficult for me… I had no sense of direction. I wanted to pull my hair out and wanted to quit school. But being in TRIO helped me.”