SSS & SOAR TRIO host First-Generation College Celebration Day

Author: Juan Carlos Gonzalez
December 12, 2022
TRIO staff with event poster
Photo Credit: Cecilia Cao

Pictured: First-Generation College Celebration Day Committee

San Francisco State University’s fourth First-Generation College Celebration Day, hosted jointly by Student Support Services (SSS) and Student Outreach and Academic Retention (SOAR) TRIO, was held on campus at Seven Hills on National First-Generation Day, November 8. Celebrations around the nation have been held on this day since 2017, when the Council for Opportunity in Education and the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators created this day to recognize and honor first-generation students and help “[transform] higher education to drive first-generation student success, effectively and equitably, across education, career, and life…encouraging [our] communities to understand better the systemic barriers plaguing higher education and the support necessary for you — our critical and resilient First-Generation students, to continue thriving.” 

The celebration began with SF State President Lynn Mahoney’s opening remarks. She commended students for taking the most important step to elect to enter higher education. She went on to acknowledge and thank the “village” represented by the community partners present at the celebration and share her parent’s experience being first-generation.

The celebration proceeded with a moment of silence and a land acknowledgment kindly provided by Professor and Chair of Counseling Rebecca Toporek. The event intentions and a brief meditation followed, bringing focus on the difficult task of being a student in recent times and impacted by a worldwide pandemic. SOAR TRIO director JC Gonzalez said, “We see and acknowledge how hard you’re trying to keep things working. And we know we’re not in a situation where it is easy for anyone.”  

Sherria Taylor, associate professor of Family & Community Sciences and director of Healing Circles in the College of Health & Social Sciences (CHSS), perfomed a phenomenal rendition of “God Bless the Child” as performed by Billie Holiday. She introduced the song with the powerful history and trailblazing work of Billie Holiday, “… through her pain and all of the things that she went through, even as a child and a Black woman during that time — which still resonates with many of us now … she used her voice to stand for something in her own special, beautiful way.” 

Following the song, a panel of first-generation students, staff and administrators was introduced, and panelists took turns offering their testimony of being a first-generation student, staff member and leader. This was followed by lunch and networking.

See event photos on Facebook.

TRIO first generation panel

First-Generation Panel

  • Damarcus Johnson, former SSS-TRIO student, B.A. in History, and former Educational Opportunity & Pathway Programs (EOPP) mentor
  • Jocelyn Bonilla, Biology major with concentration in Physiology
  • Al Huynh Phuong, SOAR trio alum, graduated class of 2021 with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and minors in Counseling and Asian American Studies
  • Zachary Young, former EOP Counselor at CSU East Bay, EOPP counselor at SF State, part of the first TRIO cohort in EOPP from 1997
  • Antonella Cortez, program coordinator for SSS TRIO, Student Affairs & Enrollment Management
  • Bibiana Arreola, interim director of Advisor Development and College Advisors 
  • Oscar Martin Gardea, director, EOPP

First-Generation College Celebration Day Committee

  • Antonella Cortez, program coordinator, SSS TRIO, EOPP
  • Jessica Duna, administrative support coordinator, SSS TRIO, EOPP
  • Juan Carlos Gonzalez, director SOAR TRIO, CHSS
  • June Parra, SOAR TRIO advising coordinator, CHSS

Community partners in attendance

  • Financial Aid
  • Tutoring and Academic Support Center 
  • Metro Academies Success Program
  • Asian American & Pacific Islander Retention Education Program
  • Institute for Civic &Community Engagement
  • Educational Opportunity & Pathways Program
  • Health Promotion & Wellness
  • Project Connect
  • SF SF Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity
  • Dream Resource Center
SSS TRIO is celebrating 25 years on campus, and SOAR TRIO is celebrating seven years on campus. The programs have had the honor and privilege of serving a combined 29 distinct cohorts of first-generation students at SF State over the years.