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The First-Generation College Celebration: Recognizing Trailblazers

Ashley Jezek | November 9, 2022

More than half of U.S. undergraduates come from families where neither parent completed a four-year college degree. These first-generation students face more obstacles in pursuit of their degrees, but their life experiences prepare them to make a significant impact in the workplace.

At Paycom, we recognize the contributions of our first-gen team members and foster respect for the unique backgrounds of employees. On Nov. 8, the First-Generation College Celebration will honor past, current and future first-gen college students. At Paycom, we want to take this opportunity to celebrate the success of our first-generation team members.

“Being a first-generation college student gave me the ability to create my own path and build a foundation for generations after me.”
—Abraham M., recruitment marketer, University of Oklahoma

History of the First-Generation College Celebration

The First-Generation College Celebration began in 2017 to recognize the success of first-generation college students, alumni and professionals. Nov. 8 honors the anniversary of the signing of the Higher Education Act of 1965 into law.

That law resulted in programs to support colleges and universities with educational resources and provide financial assistance to students. It also created programs designed to provide academic access, counseling and additional support for first-generation students, who are often people of color and/or have few economic advantages.

“My parents wanted their kids to go to college so we could have the life they couldn’t when they were younger. I am making them proud.”
—Yvann A., client success specialist, University of Texas at Arlington

What is ‘first-generation’?

The term “first-generation” simply means being the first in their family to attend college, but it leaves many questions regarding older siblings and other family members. The Center for First-Generation Student Success (CFGSS) chose the federal definition, which allows students who come from families where their biological parents did not complete a four-year college degree to identify as first-generation.

According to CFGSS, 56% of undergraduates are first-generation students. The term often “implies the possibility that a student may lack the critical cultural capital necessary for college success because their parents did not attend college,” the CFGSS writes. Consequently, understanding the systemic oppression that comes with being first is important to better support the students, alumni and professionals.

Often, first-generation college graduates become first-generation professionals, as they are the first in their families to have jobs requiring a college degree.

“Being a first-generation professional means the world to me. Each day I step into the office, I’m reminded of the sacrifices my parents had to make to give me the chance at higher education and a stable life.”
—Suzeth G., public relations marketer, University of Central Oklahoma

The importance of celebrating first-generation success

First-generation professionals with varying socioeconomic backgrounds and life experiences diversify our workplace. Understanding and identifying the systemic barriers to equitable access and opportunities is crucial on all levels. Often, first-gen college students don’t have the guidance or help filling out financial aid or college admissions applications, and college can be a daunting experience overall. However, their grit prepares them to enter the workforce as young professionals after graduation.

At this point, first-gen graduates have gone through a number of uphill battles and firsts, proving their level of determination and work ethic. They are building social capital for themselves and generations to come. A first-gen professional can bring more than their career experience and skills. They also contribute life experiences that have shaped their creativity and innovation.

“It’s important to celebrate the success of first-generation individuals because the odds were against us, but we persevered.”
—Bonny C., recruiting marketing supervisor, University of Central Oklahoma

Paycom’s career journey and growth

It takes a dedicated, multitalented team of professionals to support software that truly makes a difference. As a leader in the human capital management industry, we have built a staff with diverse skills and backgrounds and have career pathing that creates growth for employees.

Learning never stops at Paycom, where we offer ongoing personal and professional development opportunities to help team members be their best selves at work and outside work. We understand the impact of diversity, and we’re always searching for driven individuals ready to take the next step in their career.

“Paycom offers a welcoming environment to people from all walks of life.”
—Kenny M., videographer, Oklahoma State University

 If you want the opportunity to grow in your career alongside a growing and engaging team, apply today!

About the author
Author picture, Ashley Jezek
Ashley Jezek
As a recruiting marketer for Paycom, Ashley Jezek helps the recruiting teams determine their goals and assists with strategy development. Her efforts include campaign management, engaging with top talent and increasing brand awareness. After earning a public relations degree from the University of Oklahoma, Jezek served as marketing team lead for OU's Tom Love Innovation Hub and joined Paycom as a marketing database specialist. Her hobbies include spending time with her family, attending concerts and cooking.