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Montana Western Celebrates First Generation College Student Day

November 8, 2023

To celebrate the seventh annual National First-Generation College Student Day, the University of Montana Western is recognizing its first-generation students, faculty, and staff. November 8th marks the 58th anniversary of the Higher Education Act of 1965, which increased funding for universities, scholarships and student loans.

“First-generation” refers to students whose parents have not obtained a four-year college degree. The Montana Western TRIO program provides them with a support system to help them navigate the landscape of higher education.

The day recognizes first-generation college students; to celebrate the accomplishments they have made and the barriers they have broken. Montana Western and the TRIO Student Support Services staff continue to work hard to make a college degree attainable for everyone. We’d like to invite you to meet some of our inspiring first-generation students, faculty, and staff.

Keaton Piedalieu

Keaton is a first-year Montana Western student from Charlo, Montana, majoring in Kinesiology. For Keaton, being a first-generation college student was intimidating when he first arrived on campus.

“Overall, coming into college as a first-gen student was nerve-racking. Having little idea about what to expect from the college experience caused a lot of questions that really can only be answered through experiencing it firsthand,” Keaton said.

He is thankful for programs like TRIO that provided him with guidance as he began his college career.

“TRIO has been a critical part of making me feel welcome and helping ease my way into college life. They provided me with early resources and opportunities to develop friendships right when I got to campus. They have taught me how to be a better student as well as navigated me through processes like registering for classes and I am thankful to have their support,” he said.  

Gracie Stanton

Gracie is a junior from Hamilton, Montana, majoring in History and Secondary Education. Being a first-generation student has presented challenges for Gracie but she has used this as motivation to help achieve her goals.

“Being a first-generation student has been a unique and challenging experience, which can present both obstacles and opportunities. Many first-generation students are highly motivated to succeed, not only for themselves, but to also set an example for their families and future generations,” said Gracie.

Montana Western’s student support services are a valuable resource and will continue offering guidance throughout Gracie’s academic journey at UMW.

“Institutional support and mentorship programs have played a crucial role in easing the transition to college as a first-gen student. It has connected me with peers who share similar experiences as well as provided a sense of belonging and support. It is an exciting opportunity to pursue higher education which can lead to new possibilities and career paths,” she said.

Chrissy Stokes

Chrissy is a graduate of Montana Western and the current Director of Admissions. As an alumna, Chrissy knows exactly what it is like to be a first-generation student at UMW and the support that is offered to help students succeed.

“As a first-generation college student, the college process was very exciting but full of uncertainty. My parents offered a lot of support. They always encouraged me to use my resources and ask questions. Montana Western was the best choice for me because I never had to ask twice to get a question answered. I was also able to rely on my admissions recruiter, my faculty and TRIO advisors, and Montana Western’s staff and faculty to help me throughout my college career,” said Chrissy.

TRIO will be hosting a tabling event in UMW’s Lucy Carson Library on Wednesday, November 8, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. to celebrate First-Generation Student Day. Students can stop by to receive a button and learn more about first-generation students at Montana Western. Current first-generation students can enter for the opportunity to win a $100.00 scholarship donated by the University of Montana Western Foundation.

For more information about the TRIO program at Montana Western, please contact Interim TRIO Director, Dr. Michael Bartch: [email protected] or 406-683-7315.