National First-Generation College Celebration Week occurs every year around Nov. 8 to acknowledge and elevate first-generation college students and alumni identities and contributions. Nov. 8 was selected as National First-Generation College Celebration Day in honor of the signing of the Higher Education Act of 1965. The act was intended to create greater access to higher education for students from minority and low-income backgrounds.
In addition to creating federal grants and loan programs to help students finance their education, HEA ushered in the Federal TRIO programs, necessary for postsecondary access, retention and completion for potential first-generation college students.
First-generation students make up 22% (more than 1 in 5) of the undergraduate student population at Marquette University, which honors the founding mission of being committed to increasing access to a transformative Catholic, Jesuit education.
In celebration of National First-Generation College Celebration Day, Marquette Today this week will feature several first-generation students at Marquette, who will share their experience and advice for future students.
Meet Keyandre Thompson, a sophomore from Milwaukee studying psychology on the pre-med track.
From a very young age, Keyandre Thompson had the support and encouragement he needed to make his college dreams come true.
“My mother is my biggest advocate when it comes to my education, and she made it known that college is something I would want to do,” Keyandre says. “I always had a choice, but she really wanted me to attend college. I had big dreams growing up, but it wasn’t until my sophomore year of high school that I realized I wanted to pursue something in the medical field, specifically working with the brain.”
Despite having the support he needed at home, it was important to him that the next four years provide the educational guidance and structure to carry him across the finish line.
Keyandre first thought he might attend college out of state — it would be exciting to live in a different location and discover things for himself, he thought. But with Marquette, there was a sense of familiarity. He had participated in a few pre-college programs and attended several campus events — he was impressed. After thoughtful consideration, there was one program at Marquette that helped seal the deal.
“It was the Educational Opportunity Program that made the decision for me. I knew I would be supported and loved in all areas that I needed along with having a family on campus who would push me to be as great as I could be,” Keyandre recalls. “The Educational Opportunity Program – Student Support Services Program is the greatest. I always know I can find anyone in EOP who will have an answer or a solution.”
Keyandre took the leap and began his college career at Marquette with high hopes of creating a solid foundation for the future.
“I love that I am always challenged and encouraged to put my all into my work,” Keandre says. “My mom instilling the importance of having an education into my brain at a young age made it relatively easy for me to find my way around on the academic side of things, but navigating my way around campus life and trying to find my footing was a struggle. I had a general idea of what campus would be like, but I didn’t feel as if I belonged in most of the spaces. A lot of first-gen students feel the same way.”
Through the struggle, Keyandre found a strong support system at Marquette and offers this piece of advice to first-generation students:
“Allow yourself to experience things because you are here for a reason, and you should not be afraid to take advantage of the opportunities presented to you. Don’t be scared to reach out when you need it. There are good support systems on campus that can lead you in the right direction.”