First-Generation Students L.E.A.D the Next Generation Forward

By Nordia JohnsonLEAD Summit
Director of Academic Achievement Programs

Stockton students, alumni, faculty and staff came together to celebrate and prepare first-generation students for success through leadership, engagement, access and distinction at the Inaugural First Ospreys L.E.A.D Summit Nov. 9.

The L.E.A.D Summit kicked off with a welcome by Vice President for Student Affairs, Dr. Christopher Catching, who referenced his own experience as a first-generation college student when encouraging students to take advantage of all that the summit had to offer.

Students selected sessions from a full schedule of concurrent workshops facilitated by Stockton faculty and staff as well as a few community partners. Some sessions taught students how to sharpen their leadership skills and become engaged on campus, while others focused on gaining access to financial support and acquiring distinction through experiential learning opportunities.

Students were energized by the summit’s keynote speaker Ellis Bonds, founder of GRIT (Greatness Resides In There) and Stockton alumnus, who shared his story of how getting engaged on campus led him to accessing leadership opportunities and more, and ultimately contributed to his own distinction and success. “Get involved and find your village,” said Bonds, as he emphasized the importance of finding one’s support system on campus.

As the day came to a close, first-generation students, faculty and alumni were celebrated for their accomplishments in the categories of leadership, engagement, access and distinction. The lists of awards and honorees include:LEAD Summit Honorees

  • Student Leadership Award: Yesenia Pacheco
  • Student Engagement Award: Michael Killebrew
  • Advancing Access Award: Kameika Murphy
  • Alumni of Distinction Award: William R. Hagaman, Jr.

Two additional students, Lillian Nickens and Destiny Hernandez, received gift baskets as the winners of the “I Am First-Gen” competition, in which students shared their story as first-generation college students.

Most notable of the evening, perhaps, was the recipient of the Alumni of Distinction Award, William R. Hagaman, Jr., pledging a $100,000 gift to support two first-generation students in the School of Business. Hagaman was unable to attend the reception as he was simultaneously being honored by the School of Business with the Outstanding Business Alumnus Award. However, his presence was felt as Director of Alumni Relations Sara Faurot accepted the award on his behalf and briefly shared Hagaman’s first-gen story with the students present.

The evening ended with a celebratory video, highlighting current first-generation students and their accomplishments. Pacheco reminded us that despite the challenges they face, “many first-generation students are successfully overcoming barriers and creating new narratives to be celebrated.”

The First Ospreys L.E.A.D Summit was a part of Stockton’s 3rd Annual First-Gen Week Celebration, Nov. 8-11. The weeklong festivities evolved from the creation of National First-Generation College Celebration Day (Nov. 8) in 2017 by the Council for Opportunity in Education (COE) and the Center for First-Generation Student Success.