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Students Celebrate Second Annual First-Generation, Low-Income Visibility Week

Students gather in Harvard Yard for the 2022 National First-Generation College Celebration Day.
Students gather in Harvard Yard for the 2022 National First-Generation College Celebration Day. By Truong L. Nguyen
By Madeleine A. Hung and Joyce E. Kim, Crimson Staff Writers

Undergraduate students attended affinity spaces, alumni and faculty meals, and pre-professional workshops from Nov. 3 to Nov. 9 in celebration of First-Generation, Low-Income Visibility Week.

The second annual FGLI Visibility Week, hosted by the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations, kicked off on Nov. 3 with a t-shirt giveaway, peer-led dialogue, and dinner with environmental and Indigenous rights advocate Tara Houska. In all, there were more than 20 events throughout the week.

On Nov. 5, students joined first-generation Harvard alumni for brunch, where they talked about their experiences navigating their undergraduate and postgraduate years.

Attendee Wilmer A. Reyes-Rosales ’27 said the brunch was one of his favorite events because he had the opportunity to hear from alumni with similar experiences.

“They explained how they were also confused when they started out with college, but then they were like, ‘Eventually, you guys will figure it out,’” Reyes-Rosales said. “They let us know that if we ever need somebody to count on, we could count on them.”

Cody Chou ’25, a Harvard Foundation intern who helped organize FGLI Visibility Week, said he found the alumni brunch “inspirational.”

“I think this particular moment was very memorable mainly because it was really cool seeing all different alumni — not just from the college — but from the Law School, to the Medical School, to the Div School, to the Ed School and having that shared communal space.”

The week also consisted of an annual vigil for Black trans lives lost hosted by the Association of Black Harvard Women and a conversation co-hosted by the Harvard Black Students Association and Harvard Primus, an organization for FGLI students.

While last year’s FGLI Visibility Week featured many events such as a talent show and open mic night, Laila A. Nasher ’25 — the president of Primus — said the organizers of this year’s FGLI Visibility Week were more “intentional” about hosting smaller events like the affinity spaces.

“We’re really just having informal sit down conversations with people with similar identities to really just talk about the very real experiences that we’ve had on this campus,” she said. “It makes you feel comfortable by just having these conversations.”

At a Nov. 3 affinity space for FGLI and Latinx students, students from various Latinx student groups enjoyed food and made self-care kits at Winthrop House.

Anapaula Barba ’25 — an intern for the Harvard Foundation and the social co-chair of Harvard-Radcliffe Raza, a Mexican affinity group — said she helped organize the Latinx affinity space because “there is an overlap on being Latine and being first-gen, low-income.”

“It’s really important to know that you’re not the only one going through what the experience of being FGLI on campus is, and it’s especially nice to also know that there are people who resemble you, who have the same ethnic identity, who you can see at other cultural events,” she said.

“Raza was really proud to be able to collaborate with the other Latina orgs to help put together that space for our students,” Barba added.

Last Tuesday, the Harvard Foundation also hosted a mental health advocacy and education workshop, hosted by nonprofit Nunchi Health, which provides mental health services for “immigrant-origin communities.”

“I felt like that was helpful in just relaxing and expressing how we felt, which was nice because I feel like FGLI sometimes, it gets hard to feel heard,” Reyes-Rosales said.

Other events throughout the week included a student-faculty dinner, a “Financial Finesse” workshop, a movie screening in celebration of Native American Heritage Month — which takes place in November — a trivia night, and a flower truck and bouquet giveaway to celebrate National First Generation Day on Nov. 8.

Carly E. Ramos ’27, who stopped by the giveaway, said it was memorable seeing other first-generation students “being celebrated in a way that was very visible.”

“Just by giving these flowers to these students, it definitely gave us some pride in being first-gen students,” Ramos said.

Reyes-Rosales said he felt “a little more visible” during the week, which he said allowed students to “foster community between other FGLI kids.”

“It lets students know that they are actually seen, and that there’s people that want to guide them to success and let them know that they belong at Harvard, that there was no mistake in their acceptance,” Reyes-Rosales said.

Ramos said the past week has made Harvard “more approachable and welcoming” and made her feel “less isolated.”

“Getting to interact and see first-gen students and hear from their experiences — and just seeing them be so happy through these events and also seeing themselves on banners — it was definitely a very fruitful experience,” Ramos said. “It really made me think that I shouldn’t view my first-gen identity as a disadvantage, but something to celebrate and something that really connects me to a community that is dedicated and determined and overall just amazing.”

—Staff writer Madeleine A. Hung can be reached at madeleine.hung@thecrimson.com.

—Staff writer Joyce E. Kim can be reached at joyce.kim@thecrimson.com.

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CollegeStudent GroupsStudent LifeFirst Generation Low Income