First Gen Awards


Each November, during Kent State University’s I AM FIRST celebration, members of the Kent State University community will be recognized and receive an I AM FIRST award.  Awards categories include First Gen Alumni (Undergraduate & Graduate), First Gen Advocates (Faculty & Staff), and First Gen Students (Undergraduate & Graduate).

 Nominate Here 

  • First Gen Graduate Alumni Award

    First Gen Graduate Alumni Award

    The First Gen Graduate Alumni award recognizes exceptional alumni of Kent State University who were the first in their family to obtain an advanced or terminal degree and whose professional achievements, career or military distinction, contributions to their community, and/or service to Kent State University are reflective of the university’s vision.

  • First Gen Graduate Student Award

    First Gen Graduate Student Award

    The First Gen Graduate Student award recognizes exceptional graduate students of Kent State University who will be the first in their family to obtain an advanced or terminal degree, who has demonstrated an unwavering determination of overcoming barriers in pursuit of their education, and whose scholarship, leadership, and/or service to the university are reflective of the university’s mission.

  • First Gen Undergraduate Alumni Award

    First Gen Undergraduate Alumni Award

    The First Gen Undergraduate Alumni award recognizes exceptional alumni of Kent State University who were the first in their family to obtain a four-year degree and whose professional achievements, career or military distinction, contributions to their community, and/or service to Kent State University are reflective of the university’s vision.

  • First Gen Undergraduate Student Award

    First Gen Undergraduate Student Award

    The First Gen Undergraduate Student award recognizes exceptional undergraduate students of Kent State University who will be the first in their family to obtain a four-year degree, who has demonstrated an unwavering determination of overcoming barriers in pursuit of their education, and whose scholarship, leadership, and/or service to the university are reflective of the university’s mission.

  • First Gen Advocate Award for Staff

    First Gen Advocate Award for Staff

    The First Gen Advocate Award for Staff recognizes a Kent State University staff member who has made significant contributions to the success of first-generation college students through mentorship, first-gen focused programming and initiatives, research, the implementation of first-gen student success strategies into their everyday work, and/or service to organizations whose mission is directly related to first-generation student success.

  • First Gen Advocate Award for Faculty

    First Gen Advocate Award for Faculty

    The First Gen Advocate Award for Faculty recognizes a member of the Kent State University faculty who has made significant contributions to the success of first-generation college students through mentorship, pedagogical approach, first-gen focused programming, scholarly research, and/or service to organizations whose mission is directly related to first-generation student success.

Previous Award Winners

First Gen Undergraduate Alumni Award 2021

Tyrone Berry served as the President of the Exquisite Modeling Troupe and as a University College Student Advisory Council member. Tyrone also served as a student leader with the Kupita Transiciones program and L.E.A.D. Ambassador peer connections program. Tyrone's current role as Student Outreach Specialist in University College provides students with guidance and support for graduation success.

First Gen Graduate Alumni Award 2021

Georgio Sabino III is an experienced artist, businessman, and educator for the professional arts business community. As a proud First Gen Alumni, Mr. Georgio Sabino III remains involved with Kent State as a professional photographer during university events and art gallery exhibits showcasing his artistic talent and creativity. The insight of Mr. Georgio Sabino III extends to community needs and services.

First Gen Advocate Award Faculty 2021

Dr. Carla Goar has been an avid supporter of TRIO programs on campus, most notably the McNair Scholars program. Dr. Goar has assisted the program with growing faculty connections, recruiting potential scholars, and mentoring scholars. She has worked as a faculty mentor for McNair and has offered her expertise and guidance to assist scholars in developing innovative research that can transform communities. Most recently, Dr. Goar is leading the newly formed Anti-Racism and Equity Institute.

First Gen Advocate Award Staff 2021

Sonya Y. Williams is a first-generation college graduate who has overcome many obstacles stemming from a difficult upbringing to successfully serving as an executive director for Kent State University. Sonya serves as a role model who can relate to the strengths and challenges of individuals with similar identities. Sonya provides leadership, coordination, and supervision for projects and initiatives to support the University's Outreach and Engagement Office.

First Gen Undergraduate Student Award 2021

Penelope Cervantes's intrapersonal skills, including her self-awareness, her actions, and her strive for continuous learning, are unmatched. Penelope participated in the EXCEL Learning Community (Exploratory Program learning community), Oscar Ritchie Scholar, and Kupita Transiciones (K/T) cultural orientation program. She also participated in Academic Advantage, was (and is) a Student Ambassador for University College and completed the Peer Leader Training course. This year, Penelope serves as a K/T Mentor—assisting first-year K/T students with their transition to college and serving as a role model. She is also involved in Sister Circle and the Spanish and Latino Student Association (S.A.L.S.A.).

First Gen Graduate Student Award 2021

Victor Obi is a first-generation Nigerian international graduate student. He is a great leader with responsibilities that include serving as the Graduate Student Senator and the Global Ambassador program coordinator for international students at Kent State. He founded "FEED THE DESERTED CHILD," an initiative targeted at picking up deserted children and orphans on the streets of Lagos, Nigeria, and cleaning, feeding and enrolling them into schools. Outside of the university, Obi served as the Technical Coordinator for the Geological Society of America (GSA). He recently presented the exciting results of his ongoing research at GSA and hopes to give the expanse of his study at the upcoming Interpore conference in Shanghai, China, in 2022.

Award Archive

Each November, during Kent State University’s I AM FIRST celebration, members of the Kent State University community will be recognized and receive an I AM FIRST award. Awards categories include First Gen Alumni (Undergraduate & Graduate), First Gen Advocates (Faculty & Staff), and First Gen Students (Undergraduate & Graduate). Here are previous I AM FIRST award winners.

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