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ULM TRIO-SSS celebrates first-generation students, faculty, staff with First to Fly Reception

Published Nov. 22, 2021


University of Louisiana Monroe President Ron Berry, second from right, joins TRIO-SSS students, from left, Blake Stone, John'Nise Peoples, and Phillip Vu-Nguyen in celebrating National First-Generation College Celebration. President Berry was the first in his family to earn a college degree.

Siddarth Gaulee/ULM Photo Services

The First to Fly Reception highlighted the experiences and stories of first-generation faculty, staff, and students

The University of Louisiana Monroe's TRIO Programs Student Support Services hosted a First to Fly Reception to celebrate the success of first-generation students, faculty, and staff. The event was on Nov. 8 in honor of the annual National First-Generation College Celebration. 


A first-generation college student is a student whose parents or legal guardians have not completed a bachelor's degree, making the student the first in their family to graduate with a bachelor's degree.


The annual National First-Generation College Celebration selected the date of Nov. 8 to honor the signing anniversary of the Higher Education Act of 1965, which provided federal funding to strengthen resources and make college more accessible for all students. 


The First to Fly Reception highlighted the experiences and stories of first-generation faculty, staff, and students. President Ronald Berry; Donald Simpson, Ph.D., Dean of the College of Health Sciences; Michelle McEachern, Ph.D., Dean of the College of Business and Social Sciences; John Pratte, Ph.D., Dean of the College of Arts, Education, and Sciences; Glenn Anderson, Pharm.D., Dean of the College of Pharmacy; and John Sutherlin, Ph.D., Chief Innovative and Research Officer, shared their heartfelt experiences as first-generation graduates and their college challenges.


Catherine Estis, Ph.D., TRIO Executive Director, stated that a recognition program for first-generation students is imperative to ensuring equity in higher education.


ULM students who received a 2021-2022 First-Generation Scholarship through the ULM Foundation were recognized with a Certificate of Scholarship. The students include Jasmine Bingham, Asia Bradley, Micheal Butler, Kirstin Elrod, Nia Hamilton, Joshua Handy, Terrishan Howard, Willexus Jones, Brook Little, Cayla Oliver, John'Nise Peoples, Miya Reed, Shakonna Sudds, Jasmine Thenekhamsyharath, Ivonne Valenzuela, Ambernae Williams, and Melaney Zheng.




The University of Louisiana Monroe recognized students who are the first in their families to earn a college degree at the TRIO-SSS National First-Generation College Celebration. First-Gen students are, from left, Phillip Vu-Nguyen, Brook Little, and Blake Stone.

Siddarth Gaulee/ULM Photo Services




The first 50 students to arrive at the First to Fly Reception received a "Proud to be First-Gen" T-shirt, and first-generation faculty and staff received "I'm First" pins to demonstrate their first-generation pride. First-generation virtual backgrounds were also unveiled and are available on the TRIO webpage for download.


In addition to National First-Generation College Celebration Day, TRIO-SSS peer mentors John'Nise Peoples and Brailyn Russo introduced a new Recognized Student Organization, First-Generation Ambassadors. The student-led organization will raise awareness about the first-generation student's experience through activities and programs designed to foster first-generation students' personal and professional development. 


According to Mystee Burrell, Ed.D., Co-Associate Director of TRIO Programs, "A sense of belonging is something first-generation students often feel is missing from their college experience. FGA will provide opportunities for first-generation students to engage with individuals from similar backgrounds and cultivate a community of support." 


TRIO-SSS is one of the eight TRIO Programs fully funded through the U.S. Department of Education to assist first-generation, income-eligible students to remain in good academic standing and graduate from college. To learn more about the TRIO-SSS program or to apply, visit www.ulm.edu/research/trio