These buttons, distributed around campus at various events, identify current first-generation college students and those WCC faculty and staff who were first-generation college students themselves at one time. (Photo by Kelly Gampel)


Statistically speaking, first-generation college students aren’t as likely to graduate as those who come from homes with college-educated parents.

One of the many reasons why is because those students may not have an adult in their lives to help them navigate the maze of college life.

A new program at Washtenaw Community College is aiming to change that.

If first-generation students need an empathetic supporter, they only need to look for the nearest white button with the words “First to Graduate.”

“We have asked those staff and faculty members at WCC who were first-generation graduates themselves to wear the button in support — and, if needed, to assist — our first-generation students to navigate and adapt to college,” said Dean of Student Access, Success, Equity and Inclusion Clarence Jennings Jr.

Some faculty and staff have also posted placards on their office doors with the same intention.

For current first-generation students, green buttons are being passed out to show their commitment to be the “Next to Graduate.”

Both buttons include the popular #FirstGen social media hashtag, a source for finding valuable resources and supportive messages for first-generation students.

Jennings said the college is also undertaking a study of how first-generation students at WCC fare in the classroom.

By studying their progress, the college hopes it will be able to identify barriers and create the programs or resources to help overcome them.