Students and Staff Celebrate First-Generation Week
December 1, 2021
As a child growing up in Florida, Marckileine Legros expected she would go to college one day. But her path to higher education wasn’t guaranteed. Her own determination, her family’s support, and the assistance of a program for college-bound students from disadvantaged backgrounds helped her navigate the many challenges of being the first person in her family to graduate from college.
“It meant everything to my family,” said Legros, whose parents immigrated to the United States from Haiti. “In addition to being a first-generation college student, I‘m also a first-generation immigrant. Being able to go to college meant the opportunity for my family to get a stronger base in this country.”
Legros graduated with two degrees – a bachelor’s degree in psychology and criminology from Florida State University, and a master’s degree in educational psychology from the University of Minnesota. She is in her second year as a counselor at Northfield High School and was one of the organizers of the school’s First-Generation Week, held Nov. 8-12.
Seventeen first-generation staff members participated in the celebration at the high school by displaying education banners outside their classroom doors, meeting with potential first-generation students one-on-one, or sharing videos about their college experiences. First-Generation Week was also celebrated at Arcadia Charter School, with banners created for participating staff members highlighting their educational paths.
Northfield High School special education teacher Danielle Crase, who participated in the event this year and last year, said her parents felt they had missed an opportunity by not going to college themselves.
“My parents have always been strong supporters of education, and have always pushed me and my younger sisters to go to college. They told me I had the ability,” said Crase, an alumna of Northfield High School. “I knew I wanted to help people, and get a degree to help change people’s lives.”
She planned to become a physical therapist, but ended up getting a bachelor’s degree in communication from the University of Wisconsin in River Falls. A job as an education aide led her to return to school to get a teaching license and a master’s degree in emotional behavior disorders from Minnesota State University in Mankato.
Crase said growing up in a town like Northfield, where higher education is promoted and valued, can place added stress on students who aren’t sure college is for them.
“I tell them that my path wasn’t perfect. You can make different choices – maybe it’s something you do down the road,” she said. “I also try to let them know that you can be the first one in your family to do anything, and that it’s OK to blaze your own trail and do what you’re passionate about.”
Both Crase and Legros said that students and staff members alike asked questions about the banners and enjoyed learning more about the varied educational experiences represented at the high school.
Legros said she also heard positive comments from many parents.
“They said they were happy to see the information that was being shared, and were excited that more attention was being given to first-generation students,” she said. “This is something I hope we can continue every year. I’m excited to start working on next year’s programming and see what else we can bring in.”