Each year in May, Bowdoin gathers the family and friends of seniors who are the first in their family to graduate from college. The students and guests are treated to a lunch the day before graduation. Leana Amaez, associate dean of multicultural student programs and the event organizer, says it is her favorite moment of the year. “While tomorrow’s events will be filled with tears, and laughter, and hugs, and many goodbyes and even more pictures…it will feel like a whirlwind,” she said. The First-Generation Lunch, on the other hand, provides a pause to focus on and honor the Bowdoin seniors who are “blazing new trails” in their families. It is also a chance to recognize the supporters and family whose sacrifices and support helped the soon-to-be graduates get to where they are.
President Barry Mills said the event is particularly meaningful to him as a first-generation college student. “This event in Commencement weekend is for me the most important event that we do, because it links me back to my past at Bowdoin,” he said.
After four years at Bowdoin, all of the seniors have changed, Mills pointed out. Meanwhile, the places where they grew up probably haven’t changed too much. “You have to figure out how to stay connected to those places…what it means to stay connected to who you really are, where your roots are, who are really about,” he said. Not forgetting where they came from, even as they move through their lives and careers, is vital to the graduates’ success, he said. “It’s an important lesson for us all, and I certainly had to deal with it myself.”
Photos by Michelle Stapleton