Kent State Celebrates Faculty and Staff as part of ‘I Am First’ Week

Kent State University is celebrating its first-generation students this week with a series of events and programs to spotlight and encourage current students who will be the first in their families to earn a bachelor’s degree. 

The purpose of the week is to increase campus awareness and engagement of students, alumni, staff and faculty who are first-generation, and to promote resources, programs and services that support first-generation student success. 

The university will celebrate students, staff, faculty and advocates for their accomplishments and support of first-generation students and their journeys. 

Events will be celebrated on various Kent State campuses. More information on I AM FIRST Week, including a list of all activities, can be found here. The week is sponsored by Academic Diversity Outreach within University College.  

As part of the celebration, some faculty and staff who were first-generation students share their stories in their own words: 

Zinga Hart 

First-Gen Staff, College of Communication and Information  

First-generation staffer Zinga Hart

“As a first-generation college student, I remember leaving college after my first year to help my family. However, my grandmother encouraged me to press on and complete my degree. I realized that I worked too much while attending school and the academic support staff helped me re-prioritize my short-term money goals for my long-term financial dreams. First-gen advocacy is important to me because we can miss a lot of what helps us succeed in college by just not knowing what resources are available. I would recommend asking questions and tapping into resources available to you because you deserve it!” 








Keya Jennings 

First-Gen Staff, College of Education, Health and Human Services

First-generation staffer Keya Jennings

“I felt that I was not capable enough or smart enough during my experience. I felt that I had to make sacrifices as a single parent. My family and friends helped me on my journey toward degree completion. I believe it is important to pay it forward to support students with their challenges and successes to help them be resilient. I would advise students not to give up and to ask for help. Utilize all resources available to you!” 








Lorene Martin 

First-Gen Faculty, College of Nursing 

First-generation faculty members Lorene Martin

“I remember the struggle of completing my Nursing degree since I had two small children and a limited income.  I worked three part-time jobs and drove over an hour to take my classes here at Kent State. On graduation day, I was thrilled knowing that I had accomplished my goal and would be better able to care for myself and my children. My family supported me, and I had a great deal of community support and encouragement that helped me with my degree completion. First-gen advocacy is important to me because neither of my parents nor my grandparents attended college. It was difficult for them to understand the challenges associated with a college-level education. For first-generation students, set reasonable, realistic goals and remember to take care of yourself while working towards your degree. There is no prize for getting done ‘the fastest.’ Sometimes a break is necessary to assure your success.” 







Martha (Marti) Ann Coles 

First-Gen Staff, Performing Arts, School of Theater and Dance 

First-generation staffer Martha Coles

“What I remember most about my first-gen journey is that I didn’t take this journey alone. I was a non-traditional student with two children, along with my older sister and her two children, two nieces with their children and other family members who lived in the Allerton Apartments (KSU Family housing dormitories). This was an enriching environment for us and our children because of the opportunity to live among international students, some of whom are still friends of mine today. I am glad to say that most of my family members graduated.  I would tell a first-generation student to ask questions until you get the answer that will help you. There are so many resources and people available to help you on campus, so seek them out!” 

POSTED: Wednesday, November 9, 2022 04:43 PM
Updated: Friday, December 9, 2022 07:10 PM
University Communications and Marketing