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UH Manoa First-Gen Forward committee members

About 24% of college students nationwide identify as a first-generation student, meaning they are current or aspiring students who are the first in their family to attend a college or university and pursue a four-year degree. At the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, the number of first-generation students is estimated to be higher than the national average. According to a recent survey administered by ‘Bow, UH Mānoaʻs AI-powered chatbot, 50% of the 1,940 undergraduate students who responded identified as first-generation.

Related UH News story: UH Manoa recognized for helping 1st-gen students

Designated as a First-Gen Forward Institution by the Center for First-Generation Student Success in 2020, UH Mānoa will join other institutions nationwide and hold a First-Generation College Student Celebration on November 8, recognizing the identity, potential and achievements of first-generation students. The event at the Queen Liliʻuokalani Center for Student Services 11 a.m.–2 p.m. aims to empower and connect first-generation students with invaluable resources and a supportive community to help ensure their success in higher education.

“First-generation students are trailblazers, leading the way in unfamiliar territory for their families to be successful in the higher education system, even if it is one that isn’t built for their success,” said Jennifer Barnett, associate director of the Office of Student Equity, Excellence and Diversity (SEED). “Ensuring that we understand their strengths and challenges helps us to better support our students.”

According to Barnett, first-generation students are known to be determined, motivated and resilient, but need the guidance and support to face unique challenges as the first in their family to go to college. Many of them come from historically underrepresented student populations.

With support from the Office of the Vice Provost for Student Success (OVPSS), UH Mānoa applied to become a First-Gen Forward Institution to strengthen and enhance the campus’ efforts to create connections and a welcoming environment for its first-generation students.

“The current designation gives us an opportunity to understand and engage this special population with the added support of the Center for First Generation Student Success and the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators,” Barnett said.

More on the event

The First-Generation College Celebration will feature various programs and activities, including:

students holding up first-gen sign

  • Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program: Learn about program activities and support offered to first-generation students.
  • Passport Program—score a free tote bag and boba: A fun and interactive “passport program” will guide students on how to find their academic advisor and what questions to ask them. Complete the passport and earn a free tote bag and enjoy free boba, while supplies last!
  • Share your story: Faculty, staff, students and alumni may share their experiences and journey as first-generation students to inspire and uplift the community. To participate, fill out this online form.
  • Networking: Connect with faculty, staff and fellow students and create a more inclusive and supportive environment.

In addition to the celebration, there will be a talk story event on November 9 with Hawaiʻi Rep. Amy Perruso. First-generation students are welcome to attend and share their educational experiences. RSVP online.

The First-Gen Forward committee, led by Barnett, includes representatives from throughout campus including Student Housing Services, OVPSS, Office of the Registrar and various SEED programs. For more, find them on Instagram @im1stgenuhm.

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