Center for Access and Success celebrates Elon’s first-generation students

Elon hosted the third annual First-Generation Graduation Ceremony in honor of all the first-generation Class of 2023 graduates.

Class of 2023 first-generation students during the First-Generation Graduation Ceremony on Tuesday, May 2.

The Center for Access and Success and First-Generation Student Support Services, with support from the Division of Inclusive Excellence, hosted the third annual First-Generation Graduation Ceremony on Tuesday, May 2.

In addition to celebrating students’ hard work and dedication towards earning their degree and contributions to the university, the celebration also honors the community of supporters championing first-generation students’ success. This year’s celebration also includes honoring first-generation graduate students expanding the recognition to a wider range of academic pursuits and experiences.

Student after receiving their stole during the First-Generation Graduation Ceremony.

“First-generation students, you are hardworking, resilient, proactive, resourceful and creative, among many characteristics,” said Travella Free, executive director of the Center for Access and Success, in her opening remarks. “Tonight we celebrate your success, your hard work, and the sacrifices you and your support systems have made.”

Martha Lopez Lavias, a graduate student in the Masters of Higher Education program and graduate apprentice for the Odyssey Program, delivered the keynote address and shared what being a first-generation graduate student means to her.

For Lavias, being a first-generation graduate means that she became “a small percentage of Latinas in the U.S. with a master’s degree.” It also means that she can serve as a catalyst for her family, especially her siblings, to show them how much they can accomplish and grow by pursuing higher education. In her closing reflection, she reminded the graduates to “continue developing and discovering their passions.”

Associate Director of Admissions for Diversity and Access Kimberly Romero, Associate Vice President for Student Life Jana Lynn Patterson and Associate Professor of Physical Therapy Education Paula DiBiasio served as the stole-bearers for the event.

Group of first-generation students taking a selfie after the First-Generation Graduation Ceremony.

Before students were adorned with their stoles, Assistant Director of National and International Fellowships and advisor to Elon’s First-Generation Society Nicole Galante and President of the First-Generation Society Delyla Makki ’24 introduced each graduate to the audience with their accomplishments, highlights from their Elon journey and their dedications.

Carla Fullwood, director of inclusive excellence education and development, closed out the ceremony by offering her reflection of feeling proud. Fullwood encouraged students to experience the range of feelings that amplify being proud this graduation season.

“Feel relieved that classes are almost over. Feel empowered by all your academic and leadership accomplishments at Elon. Feel thankful for the support you have received from parents, guardians, biological family, chosen family, friends, and mentors,” Fullwood said. “It’s also OK to feel sad if you’ve lost loved ones along the way. Feel grateful for those memories and remember they will be with you when you walk across that stage.”