Almost 1 in every 4 students at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University come from families whose parents did not obtain higher education. From 4:30-6:30 p.m. on Nov. 8 at the Gorecki Conference and Dining Center, Saint Ben’s and Saint John’s will celebrate their legacy on First-Generation College Celebration Day.
The event, which is being recognized on campuses nationwide, will highlight approximately 675 current Bennies and Johnnies who are currently on campus as first-generation students. One of their predecessors, Edwin Torres DeSantiago ’16, will deliver a brief keynote in Upper Gorecki 204. Torres DeSantiago is vice president of public affairs at NewPublica, an Intercultural LEAD alum and now is a member of the CSB and SJU boards of trustees. Food, music and prizes also will be part of the program, which is free and open to the public, as will an announcement of the opening of applications for the 2024 Tri-Alpha induction class, which will happen in April.
“It’s really special to have an alum and current board member who was a first-generation college student himself come back and help us celebrate,” said Malik Stewart, coordinator of the Intercultural LEAD program and director of multicultural student services at CSB and SJU. “I think Edwin’s experience and message will resonate with a lot of students. November is a busy time, we’re between breaks, the homesickness is real. So, I’m also looking forward to the opportunity for students to come together and celebrate each other.”
The Council for Opportunity in Education (COE) and the Center for First-generation Student Success launched the inaugural celebration in 2017. It commemorates the signing of the Higher Education Act (HEA) of 1965 by then-President Lyndon B. Johnson. The act created federal financial aid programs to fund students’ educations and made key investments in colleges and universities. Many of the HEA’s programs, particularly the Federal TRIO programs, promote postsecondary access, retention and completion for today’s limited-income, first-generation college students.