UTEP hosts first-generation college celebration


Daniel Perez

Daniel Rey Perez, Contributor

With more than 200 attendees, students, faculty, and proud parents took part in a celebration where first-generation college student earned their cords, Monday, April 22, at the Tomas Rivera Conference Center located at the Union East.

Meshel Henderson, a 21-year-old, majoring in English, comes from a family of immigrants who supported her in this journey every step of the way.

“My mother and two older sisters are immigrants from the Philippines. My mom had to work multiple jobs with long hours just to put food on the table for me and my sisters,” Meshel said. “My parents stressed the importance of education and pushed me to reach heights that they could not because they did not have resources growing up.”

Many proud family members crowded the front of the room to take pictures and cheer as their son or daughter’s hard work was recognized.

UTEP’s president Diana Natalicio and vice president for student affairs Gary Edens presented the soon to be graduates with their cords.

Edens expressed why this celebration is important, because it not only honors the hard work of the students, but serves as an inspiration for the younger generations

“So many students don’t see themselves as college material when they’re in high school and we really want to flip the script on that,” Edens said. “When you see a first generation not only come to the university but then succeed, that’s an opportunity for all of us to celebrate.”

Many of these students came to UTEP not knowing what to expect, being the first in their family to receive a college education.

Ruth Clark, a 22-year-old student, majoring in finance, is proud of herself for taking this leap of faith and proving she could make it to this point despite her disadvantage.

“I didn’t know the importance of GPA or really the difference between grad and under-grad, you don’t know, what you don’t know,” Ruth said. “But I want younger generations to know that that’s okay, the journey is worth the struggle.

“Although it may have felt slow going by, being the first in my family motivated me to keep going, and looking back the years really flew by,” she said.

The celebration ended with a buffet of chocolate covered fruits and many group photos in the Union as a final congratulation.

These first-generation students will have the opportunity to dawn their well-earned cord at graduation, May 18, to remind those who are facing the same challenges as them, that a degree is possible.