A Day of Celebration

By Andrew Garoppo '24, December 9, 2022
IC honors first-generation students during event.

Approximately 15% of the members of each incoming class at Ithaca College identifyies as a first-generation student. With such a robust presence on campus, ensuring that this population feels appreciated and welcome is critical.  

That’s why, on November 8, the college’s First-Generation Center held a celebration for students in Clark Lounge. In 2017, that date was selected as the day for the annual National First-Generation College Celebration to honor the anniversary of the signing of the Higher Education Act of 1965. 

At IC, the day was an opportunity for first-gen students to reflect on their journey to South Hill while celebrating their accomplishments. 

“I hope you all take this day with pride and know that from navigating classes, to finding a community, to simply having a place to come for a cup of tea or coffee, I and the center are here to help you all in some small way,” Shadayvia Wallace, program director of the MLK Scholars and First-Gen programs at IC, told the students at the event. 


Students at First-Generation celebration event.

That feeling was echoed by Baneet Pukhrambam ’26. A native of India, Pukhrambam came to IC in part due to the Next Genius Scholarship program, which offers full and partial tuition scholarships to outstanding Indian high school students to pursue their undergraduate education. For him, the celebration was another example of the services offered to first-generation students at Ithaca that have made a huge difference. 

“I haven’t felt divided from other students,” he said. “The First-Generation Center and the people at FIRST Place Generation Residential Living Community work so hard to make us feel comfortable and have a good experience. It’s nice to be able to find a community. The one thing that binds us is the exciting experience of being the first person in our family to go to school. It’s good to know the school respects that and offers us support.” 

“It’s a day of appreciation,” added Anushri Sukumaran ’26, sharing what this event meant to her. “I like to hang out with both first gen and non-first gen friends, but I’m proud to be the first person in my family to get an education like this. It’s a day to get along with students who can relate to that, and also to just appreciate ourselves for making it here.” 

For Wallace, this celebration was a strong reminder of why she set out on this career path when she was an undergraduate student at Keuka College, where she worked in the student affairs and student activities office and was a new- student mentor.  

“I wanted to put on the First Gen Week and the celebration because it's important to highlight this historic event like the signing of the Higher Education Act 1965 and its huge impact on Ithaca students,” she said. “It's important that first-gen students know that they aren't alone in their experiences and that there are support systems in place.” 

“It’s amazing they have a special day for us just to celebrate our accomplishments,” said Jaqueline Pereira ’25, who is a member of Alpha Alpha Alpha, the national first-generation honor society. “IC is open and understanding. It can be hard to navigate college at times, but the residential community and the first-gen center really embrace us and try to help us as much as they can, so I never feel like I’m alone here.”