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First-generation students celebrated at Northeast

First-generation students celebrated at Northeast

NORFOLK, Neb. – While the destination is the same, students at Northeast Community College often take different paths to get there.

Northeast celebrated the various paths that students take during National First-Generation College Celebration Day on Wednesday, (Nov. 8). Students walking by in the upper level of Union 73 were invited to have doughnuts or cookies, coffee, lemonade and sign a banner.
Badges were also available, noting students were the first in their family to attend college. The badges stated, “Proud to be F1RST.” Students also could get a photo taken with a new photo backdrop. Finally, students were invited to complete a thank-you note for someone who helped them to reach their academic goals.
Josh Becker, director of TRiO Student Support Services, said the event was held to increase awareness of TRiO and the help it offers to students.
Becker said in the past, the event was a smaller event held within the TRiO program. This year, thanks to a Northeast mini grant, the event was expanded and much more visible.
“We were awarded an Innovation Grant from Northeast,” Becker said. “And with that, we were able to make this a campus wide event and host it here in the Union.”
The last report indicated that about 58% of the students at Northeast are first generation. About 190 students are supported in the TRiO program, but the number of first-generation students at Northeast is well over 1,000, Becker said.
Denise Richling, TRiO College Success Program adviser, said she was in the TRiO program at Wayne State College, so she was familiar with the program before she began working at Northeast.
Richling said the TRiO program helped her to make the transition from high school to college easier.
“It helped to make sure I had the hands-on guidance through college. Without TRiO, I definitely would not have been as successful in life through my college career,” Richling said.
Makayla Heithold, TRiO administrative assistant, said she was in the TRiO program at Northeast.
“Josh was actually my TRiO adviser,” Heithold said. “I didn’t join until my second year because my first year was COVID and I didn’t know what was on campus. Then I did find out about TRiO and it really did support me. It gave me a lot of one-on-one advising and help with classes.”
Jade Wilken, TRiO College Success Program adviser, said she was a freshman at Northeast the first year that the college had TRiO, but she was not a part of it.
Wilken said the offerings include assistance with such things as setting up financial aid, getting help scheduling classes or transferring classes and “anything and everything college-related.”
“In my role now, I get to help our First-Gen students make it a stress-free process as much as it can be,” Wilken said. “It’s something that I’m proud of … getting to help students.”
The TRiO-College Success Program staff also traveled around campus throughout the day to record interviews with First-Gen students, staff, and faculty. The interviews will be highlighted on multiple media platforms, including social media and the Northeast website, as well as played during TRiO-CSP orientations and events.

TRiO Success open house 
Northeast students and staff were invited to sign the “Proud to be F1RST” banner, take a “Proud to be F1RST” photo with a new photo backdrop, among other activities. (Northeast Community College)