Today: Jun 17, 2024

First-generation students honored through guest speaker presentation

Jay’Mi Vazquez – News Editor

First-generation students at the university were celebrated with a career empowerment hour with Tameka Ellington. 

Ellington is the founder of Tameka Ellington Enterprises, a personal, professional and spiritual wellness company. She is dedicated to empowering her clients to reach higher levels of self-confidence and break cultural barriers. 

Ellington said we celebrate ‘National First-Gen Day’ for several reasons like empowerment, acknowledgment and breaking the stigmas and generational curses attached to the term “first-gen.” 

“It’s important because first-generation students oftentimes are underrepresented students,” Ellington said. “About 50% of the time, first-gen students are students of color. Oftentimes, about 50% of students come from low-income families. When you are on that trajectory, you are breaking those generational curses. You need every bit of empowerment you can get because you are already starting at a disadvantage.” 

“The empowerment that you need to keep going- you oftentimes can’t get that from family and your friends. So, you need the empowerment wherever you can get it,” Ellington said.  

Associate Director of Career and Professional Development Rachel Cunningham-Exavier reflected on her experience being a first-generation student in college. She said this keynote event for students is extremely important so they can learn from it.   

“Being a first-gen myself, there’s a lot of things I did not know going through my college career,” Cunningham-Exavier said. “So, the more resources, the more people that can give you the things that you need to know, whether that be your resources or how to navigate the career world or the academic world, I think is great.”  

Cunningham-Exavier said first-generation students were not really publicized much when she was in school. She feels it is important for students to have pride in being the first in their families to go to college.   

“To have something specifically for that population, to have something for our students in that nature, especially for graduate students who are sometimes overlooked as first -gen students is awesome,” Cunningham-Exavier said. “Having Dr. Ellington here to be able to talk to our students and empower them for their career and for life is awesome.”  

Ellington said her presentation was created to help first-generation undergraduate students prepare for their careers when they graduate and empower them to continue their first-generation journey. 

Ellington said during her career she did not know she could negotiate her salary until she was in her thirties. It took her a lot of time and dedication to get where she is today because of the barriers she had to overcome being a woman of color and a first-generation student.  

Ellington highlighted one of her four books titled “Be the GOAT.” She credits the things she wrote in this career-readiness manual for the successes she had once she graduated. To her, the acronym GOAT stands for gracious, outstanding, authenticity and tenacity.  

“I came from the inner city of Cleveland,” Ellington said. “Being gracious was one of the things that helped me move beyond what I saw on a day-to-day basis.” 

Ellington said being gracious is what helped her on her journey. This is what made her able to work with others who had lost touch with their own graciousness.  

“Being outstanding was not an option. There was no room for mediocrity. I couldn’t be mediocre. I had to always be excellent,” Ellington said. “When you strive for excellence, you always try your best and put your all into your work.” 

She said students should always be themselves at all times. She wants first-generation students to stand in their own integrity.  

“Never allow yourself to feel pressured into doing something you find unethical,” Ellington said. “Authenticity is everything.” 

Ellington said no matter who you are, you have to be someone who is willing to be tenacious.  

“A person that is tenacious is a fighter. They are strongly determined to win; they never give up and are never afraid to revolutionize how they think,” Ellington said. “Someone that’s tenacious keeps growing and keeps going.” 

Ellington said first-generation students must love what they are studying. She wants first-generation students to follow their own paths, not what their parents envision for them. 

“No matter what your major is, no matter what you want to do in this life, it must be something that you’re going to love,” Ellington said. 

Ellington also provided students with examples of how to present themselves during interviews, how to negotiate their contracts when they start their careers and how to behave in the workplace and overcome challenges in the workplace.  

“Don’t let anybody make you feel bad about the degree that you are going to be getting or the work that you will be doing. You deserve every success that you get,” Ellington said.  

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Latest from Blog