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First Gen paints the Rock
First-generation students, faculty and staff gather to leave their handprint on the Rock on November 06, 2019. Photo by Steven Bridges/University of Tennessee..

UT celebrated first-generation college students November 4–8, highlighting these students’ successes and helping them learn more about campus resources that can provide important support.

The week’s events engaged students, faculty, staff, and alumni, creating the opportunity for students to connect with a broad network. Megan King, an academic coach at the Student Success Center, explained, “Being able to talk to other students and show them ‘You can do this, you’re capable of this’ is awesome.”

Amanda Loredo, a senior studying Latin American and Caribbean studies, said being a first-generation student “means finding my way around college on my own.

“Because I’m the first in my family to attend, my parents weren’t able to help me through the application process. Even now they don’t understand everything that I go through, but I know that everything I do here is for them. Every little accomplishment is a personal win. It’s a win for my family and it’s a win for my community.”

Sophomore Jessica Norment said knowing there is help available makes a big difference.

“I like the fact that UT makes it known that first-gen students have people that care about them on campus,” she said. “Being first-gen is an important part of my identity, and I love that I have been able to connect with other first-gen students and supporters this week.”

First-generation graduate student Christopher Kelley participated in multiple events throughout the week. He works with undergraduate students through Student Support Services, pursuing a career in higher education and student development.

“I work with first-gen students day in and day out, and a lot of those students have doubts about their abilities. But to me, they bring so many strengths to the table—and so my job is to help bring those strengths out for them, just like mentors did for me while I was an undergraduate in college.”


Maddie Stephens (865-974-3993,