SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – Drew Torres was one of several students who wore a bright yellow T-shirt at Springfield Technical Community College on Nov. 8 to show the campus he was a first-generation college student.

“We want to show how much we love each other and care for each other,” said Torres, who noted that he has received support from TRIO Student Support Services, which partnered with Student Activities to put on the event.

Torres, the Student Government Association president, said, “We’re so happy to get together and do this for our community.”

On Nov. 8, STCC celebrated National First Generation College Student Day by hosting a party in the Student Learning Commons Forum. The college also celebrated first generation graduates, faculty and staff.

Torres said being a first generation student has been a transformative experience. “Having the support from STCC has really changed my life,” Torres said.

Torres has this advice to offer to fellow students: “Always try to chase your dreams and believe in yourself.”

At the lunch, faculty and staff wore pins that indicated they were first generation graduates, meaning they were the first in their family to earn a college degree. Attendees enjoyed a choice of chicken, veggie lasagna, meatballs, rice and desserts.

They had fun taking pictures for social media, placing Post-It notes on a poster indicating what motivated them to attend college. Wilma Tynes, Director of TRIO SSS, encouraged everyone to post pictures using the hashtag #CelebrateFirstGen.

According to the Center for First Generation Student Success, Nov. 8 was selected as the date for the annual National First-Generation College Celebration to honor the anniversary of the signing of the Higher Education Act of 1965.

The Center writes on its website: “The Higher Education Act emerged out of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty. Much like other hallmark legislation of that era, such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, HEA was intended to help level a playing field that for too long had been weighed against Americans from minority and low-income backgrounds. “In addition to creating federal grants and loan programs to help students finance their educations, the legislation made key investments in institutions of higher education. Additionally, HEA ushered in programs, particularly the Federal TRIO programs, necessary for postsecondary access, retention, and completion for low-income, potential first-generation college graduates.”