“You’ve Got This!” Monroe Celebrates Future First-Generation College Students

The Mintz Auditorium on the Bronx campus was electric with energy today as more than 200 local high school seniors came to the College for a special program for future first-generation college students.

The event was held in celebration of National First Generation College Student Day, which takes each year in early November to celebrate those who are the first in their family to attend college.

In addition to the College’s on-campus events and activities to celebrate the many first-generation students currently enrolled, the College added a special program just for high school seniors to motivate, encourage, and inspire them as future first-generation college students.

The message to students – also the theme of the program – was loud and clear:  “You’ve got this!”

After the Monroe Mustangs Marching Band kicked off the event, President Marc Jerome made warm welcoming remarks that helped set the uplifting tone for the event.

“When you look ahead at where you want to be, dream big – and don’t let anything get in your way,” he said.

He added: “Going to college is very important. Whether you want to come to Monroe or go to another school in New York or even out of state, go. Find the school that feels like the right fit for you and your dreams, and go after it.”

Joy Tolliver, the College’s Vice President for Strategic Initiatives and General Counsel, led the students through an interactive exercise where they shared their thoughts about their college journeys ahead. There was great excitement and determination expressed, along with an understandable bit of nervousness, too.

According to the Center for First Generation Success, one-third of all college students are first-generation students. While transitioning from high school to college can be daunting for anyone, it can be especially challenging for first-generation students who may not have someone at home who is familiar with the oft-overwhelming process of researching schools, understanding the admissions process, filling out applications, navigating through financial aid, picking a major, and the rest.

Three guest speakers who were the first in their families to go to college spoke about their experiences, openly sharing about their challenges along the way as well as how they powered through them to stay on track, graduate, and see all their big dreams come to fruition. The students truly enjoyed hearing these first-hand perspectives.

Our great thanks to Christie-Belle Garcia (Executive Director, Talent Acquisition and Diversity Inclusion for Investment Solutions, Morgan Stanley), Dr. Julian Isaacs (Doctor of Dental Surgery), and Mark C. Smith (Senior Vice President, Wells Fargo) for sharing their stories at this important program.

To close the event, several of the College’s current students participated in a frank panel discussion about their own journeys from high school to college as first-generation students. The College truly thanks these students – Reubena Aryee, Haneefah Bilal, Robensky Duffault, Carlos Duran, Maria Garcia, Khadhirunnisa Shaik, and Luis Smith – for being so open with attendees and such an important part of this wonderful part of the program.