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Skidmore College

Skidmore celebrates first-generation students

November 14, 2023
by James Helicke

Members of the Skidmore College community gathered to support and celebrate first-generation students, talk about their experiences, and offer words of encouragement and fellowship.  

Dean of Students and Vice President for Student Affairs Adrian Bautista, Vice President for Enrollment and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Jessica Ricker, and Vice President for Strategic Planning and Institutional Diversity Joshua C. Woodfork were among numerous faculty and staff who joined dozens of students at the reception on national First-Generation College Celebration Day on Wednesday, Nov. 8.  

“I want our first-generation students to know that we are a community here at Skidmore,” Bautista, a first-generation high school and college graduate, said in opening remarks at the event in the Glotzbach Atrium of the Billie Tisch Center for Integrated Sciences.  

Altagracia Montilla ’12

Altagracia Montilla ’12, center, spoke at the event.

Altagracia Montilla ’12, who studied psychology at Skidmore and is now CEO of A.M. Consulting, led attendees in a series of community-building exercise. She described the challenges she had faced as a first-generation student.   

“One of the experiences of being a first-generation student is that no one gives you a blueprint,” Montilla said. “But you also get to make one for yourself.”  

About one in eight students at Skidmore is a first-generation student. Skidmore offers a robust support network for all students that includes peer tutoring, study groups, mentoring and advising, and access to an extensive alumni network.  

The program, sponsored by the Division of Student Affairs, featured a photo booth, a raffle, food, and cake. It was organized by a committee that included first-generation students Apple Alvarez ’24 and Vicky Grijalva '24; Assistant Vice President for the Residential Experience Christina Montville; Associate Director of Inclusive Career Exploration Zach VanGalder; Assistant Dean of Student Affairs for Student Success Lorri Riggs; and Director of Leadership Activities Carlos Navarro. 

“We want to create a sense of community for first-generation students – and show that they should be proud of all that they’ve accomplished,” said Grijalva '24, who is also senior class president. “Our goal is to strengthen that community, provide resources and support, and show our first-generation students that they are not alone by connecting them with faculty, staff, students, and alumni who have been in their shoes.”  

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