Celebrating Community and the First-Generation Student Experience

RU Honors College's Generation HC Program
By Amber Kurland (‘27, SAS/HC) | December 13, 2023

November 8th marked National First-Generation College Celebration Day, dedicated to recognizing the journeys of students who are pioneers in their families as the first to attend college or university. 

Acknowledging and elevating the voices of first-generation students and their contributions to our community is an important way for those students to be shown that they belong at Rutgers and have an important role to play on our campus. 

Dean J.D. Bowers, who was a first-generation and Pell recipient student himself, used the occasion to share both his personal and professional perspective. He noted that while first-gen students can face significant hurdles on the path to success, they bring “a sense of awe, a willingness to ask questions without hesitation, the pursuit of goals without self-imposed limitations, and a willingness to focus on their own goals rather than be impeded by the expectations of others."

At the same time, amidst all the liberation and the strong sense of purpose, there is also a sometimes-greater weight placed upon their hoped-for outcomes. "First generation students know and understand that the hopes and dreams for our success are not only ours," Dean Bowers reflected, "but often include those of our entire family.” 

As one of its first "signature programs," the Honors College created the Generation HC Program (Gen HC) to engage, celebrate, and support first-generation Honors College students throughout their transitions to Rutgers. This program includes early move-in, access to an experienced mentor (an upper-level Honors student who has also been a part of the program), tailored programming and student success workshops, all with an eye to supporting these students and shaping practices and patterns for success. 

It is a natural extension of the mission, values, and purpose of the Honors College, which Dean Bowers further elaborated upon. “Our promise, as the Honors College, is that we will help enrich all of our students’ educational experiences in ways that will place them on an upward trajectory and orient them towards success; with our first-generation students we are just starting from a different place and a more refined and carefully defined level of collaboration."

With over 600 first-generation students having been enrolled in the Honors College, rising as high as 27% of an incoming class (last year), and 15% of the overall enrollment since its founding, Gen HC was created to not only ensure access but also provide proven pathways to success. And nowhere is this more clearly demonstrated than in the profiles and individual stories of just a few of our many students below.

Wendy Ahedo ('26, SAS/HC/DRC)

Photo of Wendy Ahedo

Being part of the Gen HC program has given me the ability to learn, network, and be guided by distinguished faculty, staff, and fellow upperclassmen. I was able to adapt and learn about what college has to offer such as how to get involved with organizations, build resumes, and so much more. Now as a Gen HC Mentor, I am able to give back and share these resources to first-year Gen HC Fellows, which is the most rewarding opportunity a student could ask for. Gen HC has given me the leadership skills needed for my future career. I'm a cadet in the Army ROTC and a lab assistant at Nelson Bio Labs, majoring in biological sciences and minoring in military science. One day, I hope to practice Neurosurgery Active Duty in the Army.


Bianca Caproni  ('24, SAS/HC)

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The beautiful thing here is that there is a strong community of first-generation college students! Coming to Rutgers and the Honors College, I felt a sense of belonging with so many students going through the same experience. Having my identity as a first-generation student acknowledged, I found clarity and comfort in the confusion of college knowing I wasn’t the only person feeling this way. I found resources in spaces for students like me, and I was then able to pass on the support to students who followed. The Honors College has given me opportunities to bolster my skills in leadership over these past three years. I'm excited to continue uplifting other underrepresented students in the future with my further studies and appreciate my time here at the HC in helping me get to these next steps. The power of uplifting first-generation college students is that we will go 110% of the way!


Steven Montecinos ('25, SEBS/HC)

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When I arrived on campus, college seemed daunting to me. At first, feeling like I belonged and navigating the expansive system of Rutgers proved to be a challenge. Once I became involved at Rutgers and in the Gen HC Program, I learned about opportunities and resources at Rutgers, built my own community, and developed leadership skills. Even today, I continue to build off of the foundation Gen HC gave me as I develop into a researcher and leader in my own community.



Angeles Pinas ('26, SAS/HC)

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Being part of the Gen HC program has exposed me to an invaluable amount of resources and experiences. I have gained a sense of community within this program through workshops and activities. As a Workshop Lead now, I am putting into work the values of leadership taught to me as I continue to help other Gen HC students.




Yanelli Sandoval Silva ('26, RBS/HC)

Photo of Angeles Pinas

As a first-generation Latina, the Gen HC program has been a transformative experience for me. It provided invaluable resources like LinkedIn and resume-building skills, connected me with mentors and peers who share my background, and ultimately, gave me the chance to give back by returning as a mentor myself. This program has empowered me to thrive as a first-generation student and become a leader in my community.



Rebecca So ('26, SAS/HC)

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Being a first-gen student at the HC meant learning from all types of people while being supported by those who held our best interests at heart. We found a smaller community inside a large research university where we could share ideas, experiences, and laughter. I was nervous being first-gen but being part of such a positive environment has helped me discover new sides of myself!