The First Generation Initiative (HWS FGI) honored seniors who are the first in their family to graduate from a four-year college.
HWS First Generation Students are trailblazers, the first in their family to graduate from a four-year college or university in the United States. Before the Classes of 2021 made their final walk across the Quad to receive their diplomas on Sunday, the Colleges celebrated first-generation students at a ceremony in their honor. The event was held on Saturday, May 15 on Stern Lawn.
Nearly 20 first-generation students took part in the celebration. Together, they represented a variety of interests and academic accomplishments, having majored in subjects from theatre to media and society, American studies to biochemistry. While at HWS, these students volunteered in the Geneva, N.Y. community, joined student clubs, held positions as Residential Assistants, stage managers, student photographers, intercultural affairs coordinators and civic leaders, and earned academic honors, becoming members of the TriAlpha National Honor Society for First Generations students, the Druids and Hai Timiai.
Presiding over the ceremony were Associate Professor of Chemistry Christine de Denus P’22, who serves as the director of the First Generation Initiative (FGI) and Assistant Dean of Student Engagement Shelle Basilio Murray, assistant director of FGI. President Joyce P. Jacobsen welcomed graduates at the ceremony.
Former Chair of the Board of Trustees Thomas Bozzuto ’68, L.H.D. ’18, a first-generation college student himself, also spoke at the ceremony. Bozzuto is the CEO and Chairman of The Bozzuto Group, which he founded in 1988, directing the development, construction and management of real estate in metropolitan areas throughout the East Coast. A committed supporter of HWS, in 2018, Bozzuto, his wife Barbara, and their children Tobie and Lexie established the Bozzuto Family First-Generation Endowed Scholarship with a $1 million gift. Bozzuto was also the lead donor in the construction of the Colleges’ boathouse named for his father, and established the Thomas S. Bozzuto ’68 Endowed Scholarship Fund and the Bozzuto Center for Entrepreneurship.
First-generation seniors participating in the ceremony included Joseph Ansaldo, Grace Archer, Abigail Billingsley, Kevin Cervantes, Colton Corriveau, Tiffany Green, Joshua Hylkema, Sarah Lewicki, Gianella Marciniak, Giselle Miranda, Robert Padilla, Ashfaqur Rahman, Lorena Robelo-Lara, Brittany Rowell, Ferdy Simons-Barrientos, Olivia Stine, Robert Tasker, Kels Veeder, Ethan Wu and Tyler Yanko. In addition to these seniors, more first-generation students from the Classes of 2021 received their diplomas on Commencement Day.
The First Generation Initiative was established in 2006 to ensure that first-generation students have academic, social and co-curricular guidance, as well as visibility on campus.
During the ceremony, each graduate received a FGI stole and a rose that symbolizes the initiative’s gratitude for how they enriched the Hobart and William Smith community.