Luther Hosts Lunch Celebrating First Generation Students


Students, faculty, and staff gather to celebrate the first generation students on campus. Photo courtesy of Durah Albadr.

Luther College hosted the National First Generation Day Luncheon event on Tuesday, November 8 in the Hovde Lounge of the Preus Library. This event served as a part of a campus-wide day of celebration for these students, and featured multiple activities aimed at celebrating the diverse first generation student population. A panel of five members of the Luther community, including Catalyze Coach Rachel Clennon (‘22), spoke about their experiences as first generation students in higher education.

The luncheon was organized by the TRIO program and the Center for Academic Enrichment (CAE). TRIO is a program found at colleges nationwide, meant to specifically assist first generation students. TRIO Program Director Michelle Boike (‘13) spoke about the importance of hosting events like this one on college campuses.

“It is important to show support and recognition as these students are navigating college far away from friends and family for the first time,” Boike said. 

Boike also spoke about how this may add an extra challenge for these students, as many faculty members or fellow students may not understand their struggles in college and the experiences they are going through. 

According to the former Director of TRIO at Luther Tammy Hove, around 20% of Luther College’s student population is first generation. In addition to serving first generation students, the TRIO program serves students with financial assistance in their pursuit of a bachelor’s degree. Luther College has offered a student support services program since 1973. Along with TRIO and Catalyze programs, they provide students with the resources they need in order to be able to pursue their paths in college.  

Many first generation students presented their stories to raise awareness of barriers facing first generation students. Cecilia Ruiz (‘26) attended the event as a second-generation student.

“It had great representation of faculty who are first generation and provided us great insight on common issues one may face as a first gen,” Ruiz said. “Students, staff, faculty and allies came together to show support and gratitude for the students. First generation students means that they are the first generation in their families to ever attain a bachelor’s degree in college.”

Ruiz also spoke about how she chose to attend to support her peers, in addition to herself.

I am a second generation student and feel that it’s important to help others navigate as I am trying to learn as well,” Ruiz said. “[First generation students] are resilient and determined by being the first and figuring out their path through college which make good reasons to highlight these students and acknowledge their accomplishments thus far.” 

Next event sponsored by CAE is the Taking Care of Barriers Workshop on November 29 at 5pm. This workshop will be co-sponsored by Disability Services, and focused on removing barriers for eligibility in college.