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First-Gen Students at Elite Colleges Go from Lonely and Overwhelmed to Empowered and Provoking Change

Hechinger Report, March 12, 2018

By Laura Pappano

Three diverse young adult age students doing a science experiment in a STEM program.At the fourth annual 1vyG, the inter-Ivy first-generation network conference hosted at the University of Pennsylvania, Penn’s president, a “first-gen” herself, pointed out a a few hopeful statistics. When she first arrived at Penn, only one in 20 students were the first in their family to graduate college, but now, first-generation students make up one in eight of the campus population. That doesn’t mean that being first-gen at an elite college is easy now. But it does mean that today, 1vyG functions not just as a support network, but also as an catalyst for change. Laura Pappano, writer-in-residence at the Wellesley Centers for Women, observes how, since her first appearance at the conference in 2015 to now, 1vyG has grown and evolved from a space where first-generation students can find other students who relate to their struggles to a site for activism and organizing at cultural and institutional levels.

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