'I'm First!' connects first-gen students, faculty, staff

Media Contact

Joe Schwartz

From left, Celene Gayle ’19, Rochelle Jackson-Smarr, Luz Martes ’20 and Gabbie Smith, OADI adviser. Gayle and Martes are first-generation students who are involved in the I'm First! program.

This week the Office of Academic Diversity Initiatives (OADI) launched the I’m First! campaign on Cornell’s Ithaca campus. The goal is to encourage faculty and staff to identify themselves via T-shirts, buttons or other means as the first in their family to graduate from a four-year institution.

For the approximately 2,000 first-generation students on-campus, the visual campaign will help them identify and connect with faculty and staff who have walked in their shoes.

“The I’m First! campaign seeks to welcome and reassure incoming and returning first-generation students that more than 200 faculty, staff and graduate students share their experience of being first in their family to attend college,” said Rochelle Jackson-Smarr, OADI program manager of community engagement and social justice programs and OEI assistant director of student leadership, who leads the I’m First! program. “The outpouring of support has been phenomenal. This is just the start of First-in-Class programs strengthening the first-gen community at Cornell.”

Throughout the fall semester, “FirstGen-to-FirstGen” networking and mentoring events will be held to discuss challenges first-generation students encounter in college and methods to use overcome them. The first event will be held Oct. 12 from 5 to 6:30 p.m. in the ILR Conference Center, Room 225.