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The independent news website of The Kent Stater & TV2


The independent news website of The Kent Stater & TV2


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First-generation students’ accomplishments celebrated

Emma Van Winkle
A group of students during the “I Am First” celebration start a line dance on Nov. 8, 2023.

A celebration for first-generation students was held in the Kiva Auditorium Wednesday to recognize their achievements. 

The university scheduled activities and programs Monday through Thursday for the annual I AM FIRST Week. The week takes place to celebrate students who will be the first in their family to earn a college degree.  

Wednesday’s activities kicked off with a speech from Student Success Programs director Melanie Jones, who encouraged attendees to “make some noise” and cheer while waving large glow sticks.  

Mandy Munro-Stasiuk, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, was introduced as the event’s keynote speaker. Munro-Stasiuk talked about the importance of first-generation students and what they bring to the university. A student panel of first-generation students shared their journeys with the attendees after. 

Eboni Pringle, senior vice president of Student Life, touched on the struggles some of the student panelists shared. 

“I know that pressure, but know you’ve got people,” Pringle said. “You’ve got people here that you can count on, and you can stand on our shoulders, and we will help you get through this.” 

The event recognized upstanding first-generation students during the I AM FIRST award ceremony. Staff, faculty and advocates who both assist and encourage first-generation students were also recognized for their support.  

The award section honored Randi McKenzie, who received her undergraduate degree at the university and has donated back through Academic Diversity Outreach. In the act of celebrating her, the first-generation award given to undergraduate alumni was renamed the Randi E. McKenzie’s Undergraduate Alumni Award. 

“Just know that you can do this,” McKenzie said. “You’re resilient. You’ve made it this far. Kent’s going to help you. Just lower your phone one time and look at the buildings that say, ‘You belong here,’ because you do.” 

Nearly every seat in the auditorium was filled with people there to celebrate their and other’s accomplishments. Tyler Verma, associate director of Student Success Programs, credited this to the I AM FIRST committee. 

“This has definitely been our biggest celebration and we have no plans of stopping here, we will only get bigger,” Verma said. 

Wednesday’s celebrations concluded with a night of line dancing and cookies at the I AM FIRST Social following the ceremony.  

Kayla Gleason is a reporter. Contact her at [email protected]

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About the Contributors
Kayla Gleason, Reporter
Kayla is a sophomore journalism major. She enjoys writing about the current events happening around campus.
Contact her at [email protected]
Emma Van Winkle, Photographer
Emma s a sophomore psychology major with a concentration in counseling careers and a minor in early intervention. She enjoys taking pictures, and her niche is sports – but she recently found a love for nature photography when she worked at a summer camp. Contact her at [email protected]

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