First generation college students

First-generation Spiders share their stories

November 6, 2023

Student Experience

Each year the First-Generation College Celebration recognizes the achievements and challenges of students who were the first in their family to pursue higher education. Starting each year on Nov. 8, the week-long event is tied to the signing of the Higher Education Act of 1965. The law established student aid programs for funding higher education, and many of the programs promote postsecondary education for limited-income and first-generation college students.

This year, the Student Center for Equity & Inclusion partnered with UR library staff to create a display of Richmond first-gen stories in Boatwright Memorial library, which are excerpted below.

Being a first-generation college student means embodying and living out my ancestors’ wildest dreams. This journey goes beyond textbooks and classrooms. It is where I discovered my true self, refined my values, and sculpted the visions of my future.

headshot of Jaide Hinds-Clarke
Jaide Hinds-Clarke
2020 Alumnae

To me, college was a fantasy. It wasn’t until an advisor from a low-income college prep program met with me that college became real. Being first-generation/low-income is about facing the unknown with curiosity instead of fear. I’ve traveled the world, obtained an incredible support group, and even studied at Oxford. Despite the insecurities we face, we continue on, pursuing all life has to offer.  

headshot of Samuel Ghali
Samuel Ghali

I had the thrill of seeing the pride in my parents' eyes when we gathered after the graduation ceremony. They encouraged me and helped to remove every obstacle. I realized that as the first of my siblings to complete a post-secondary degree that I had through this action set an example for my children, nieces, and nephews. Achieving the dream was far better than the dream!

headshot of Cassandra Taylor-Anderson
Cassandra Taylor-Anderson
2007 and 2010 master’s graduate, head of access services, Boatwright Memorial Library

Breaking generational curses means acknowledging what you had and didn’t have growing up, then taking those resources and striving to make the most out of the life you want. You deserve it. It also means helping those who come after you. People will recognize your efforts in the long run.

headshot of Tia Turner
Tia Turner

You are not alone on this journey, and there are many people who want to support you. Support can be anything from logistical questions to you ranting about something that happened the other day in class. Fostering growth and challenges with peers who understand your lived experience is invaluable.

headshot of Jacob Lowman
Jacob Lowman
Coordinator, Residence Life and Housing

Being a First Generation student means I can defy odds and take higher education head on.

headshot of Glen Kettering
Glen Kettering

My parents always encouraged us to be the best at whatever career we chose. And while there was never pressure to go to college, I am proud to have been afforded the opportunity to get a degree and live my dream of becoming an educator. I am very proud of my status as a first-generation college student.

headshot of Tina Hallock
Tina Hallock
Staff, spouse of UR president

Every experience in college is extremely new, curious, confusing — and super interesting — because you know your parents did not have this opportunity, so you want to explore all you can. Without the Richmond Scholars program, I could not afford college costs in a new country. Without the First-generation/Limited Income program, I would probably not connect with other amazing students who share a similar background as me, which makes me feel included in this campus community.

headshot of Andrey Estevam Seabra
Andrey Estevam Seabra
First year

Being a first-generation, low-income college student meant navigating a complex system with limited guidance, learning to advocate for myself, and seeking out resources to make college affordable. It meant learning to manage my finances, juggle multiple responsibilities, and persevere in the face of adversity. It's a badge of honor that reminds me of the obstacles I've overcome and the potential I have to make a difference in my life and the lives of others.

headshot of Aaron D'Oleo
Aaron D'Oleo
2019 alum