First in Line graduation celebration to honor first-generation students

First in Line celebrates first-generation students at Baylor through events like the graduation celebration. Photo courtesy of Baylor First in Line

By Tatum Mitchell | Staff Writer

A little under 400 first-generation students are graduating this spring, and to celebrate their accomplishments, the First in Line graduation celebration is recognizing those students at 5:30 p.m. on Friday.

Michelle Gonzalez, First in Line program manager, said one of the new things for the program is the graduation celebration. Gonzalez said this is the third ceremony and first in-person ceremony.

“This is such a special journey for all of our students, but for our first-generation students, there’s that extra layer of uniqueness on the journey in them being the first in their families to pursue higher education,” Gonzalez said. “It’s a huge accomplishment. We can’t let them just graduate and not lift them up one more time.”

At the ceremony, Gonzalez said all first-generation students will be presented with chords, and they will be given stoles if they were a First in Line Success Academy Scholar or a First in Line student leader. She said between 60 and 70 students will attend.

Baytown senior Chris Amezcua got involved with First in Line his freshman year and said the program was a great opportunity to connect with others. He has since gone on to be a peer leader.

“Being able to have the opportunity just to be a supporter of other first-generation students who are first coming here, it’s been a huge blessing, because I get to have the opportunity to be able to give back to my community,” Amezcua said.

Amezcua said that his parents are proud and that he cannot wait to walk the stage before continuing with Baylor’s graduate program to get his master’s degree in public health.

“They are going to walk that stage,” Gonzalez said. “This achievement is so much more than just them doing this. Oftentimes, they’re carrying their families with them through this journey.”

El Paso senior Miguel Saucedo said last semester, he started as a student ambassador for First in Line. He said navigating the bridge between high school and college was a big culture change.

“Sometimes it’s hard,” Saucedo said. “It’s tough. But that’s what gives us a level of foundation. All the concrete that’s been poured onto you, we try to use it as a foundation for ourselves and from there, build ourselves up.”

Kapolei, Hawaii, senior Gazerelle Acain has been a part of First in Line since her freshman year. She said graduating feels like a blessing, especially since her parents were not able to. Acain said with accomplishing so much in her time at Baylor, there is a sense of honor she is bringing to her family.

“It’s kind of like you’re shaping your own legacy and your own path,” Acain said. “I think that is what makes it really special.”

Amezcua said his advice to other first-generation students is to remember the importance of building community and stepping out of your comfort zone.

“Having that support group of friends who you look at as family is the best thing to have [during] your time here,” Amezcua said. “Then, even after you graduate, they’ll still be your family.”

Saucedo said he is ready to graduate and start his new job at Baylor as a data manager, though he could not have done it alone. He said that realizing he is the first in his family to graduate is special and that he owes a lot of his success to his family and community.

“When I get off the stage and I’m with my parents, I can assure you that’s going to be one of the happiest moments of my life,” Saucedo said. “Hopefully, there’s going to be pride, not only to them but also to the ones coming after me. Because if I could do it, I can assure you that others can.”