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June 16, 2017
Students who are the first in their families to go to college often face unique struggles, and their college graduations signify a time of pride, gratitude, and accomplishment.
Knox College graduating seniors who also are first-generation students heard that message at a special reception in their honor on the day before Knox's 2017 Commencement exercises. Many of the students at the event were joined by their families and friends.
Martha Davila attended the reception in recognition of the achievements of her son, Roberto Davila '17, a political science major who is going to work as an aide for Chicago Alderman Margaret Laurino.
Martha Davila had once believed that the family wouldn't be able to afford to send Roberto to college. Because Roberto now has a degree, more opportunities will be available to him, she said.
"I can see a better future for him, seriously," she said. "For me, this is the American Dream."
Roberto said his Knox experiences, especially in the political science department and the TRIO Achievement Program, helped prepare him for his after-Knox life.
"They have a really good [political science] program here, talking about politics from a wide range," he said. He added that TRIO helped him to identify goals, find internships, and polish his writing.
Another graduate, Shontoria Pratt '17, delivered prepared remarks at the reception. She spoke about the strength that first-generation students find from family and friends, from one another, and within themselves.
She called her own mother "the most courageous woman I've ever seen" and praised her for making sacrifices "to give me the best life anyone could ever ask for." Pratt also presented flowers to TRIO Director Risa Lopez, whom she referred to as "a second mother."
"Now that we are college graduates," Pratt said in concluding her remarks, "it is our turn to become the strength behind the next generation." An Africana Studies major at Knox, she is headed to graduate school at Syracuse University, where she will pursue a master's degree in Pan African Studies.
(Photo at top of page: First-generation students in the Class of 2017 gather outside Alumni Hall. Photos below: Shontoria Pratt '17 speaks at the reception; special pins commemorate the occasion; students celebrate with families and friends.)
In additional remarks, Associate Dean of the College Lori Schroeder reflected on her past as a first-generation college student. She noted that the graduating seniors probably were feeling a wide range of emotions, including gratitude to Knox.
"You should be grateful to the people who have made Knox the place where you could succeed and your potential could be realized," Schroeder said. "But don't think for a moment that the institution hasn't benefited vastly from your being here. As we're fond of saying around here, you are Knox."
Also during the reception, Knox's first-generation graduates received commemorative pins in celebration of the milestone they had reached.
"We hope that in the years to come, these pins will serve as a reminder of your Knox experience and a symbol of the honor you bring to this college, to your friends, and your family by your achievements," President Teresa Amott told the students.
"Since 1837 this college has welcomed individuals like yourselves—courageous, talented, determined to forge a new path and achieve an education that is worthy of your potential," she said. "I want to thank you because you have given us an opportunity to serve you and help you achieve your dreams, and it is a great honor for us to have been accompanying you on this journey."
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