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CMU Fearless Firsts March On

CMU celebrates first-generation students during campus-wide barbecue

Throughout the years the Fearless First celebration on campus has become one of the most anticipated events of the year. One reason being 46% of CMU students identity as the first in their family to attend college. On November 8, Colorado Mesa University President John Marshall, campus leaders, and first-generation students, faculty, staff and friends gathered together on The Plaza for a barbecue to celebrate the accomplishments of first-generation Mavericks.

Every November, CMU joins the nationwide event to recognize the hard work that goes into being the first in a family to attend college and to commemorate the ideals of socio-economic equality.

"CMU is our region's leading First-Generation Serving Institution," said President Marshall. "Recruiting, mentoring and helping students who are the first in their families do the difficult work of earning a degree isn't just a priority, it's in our DNA as an institution."

CMU sophomore Viviana Benavides was at the barbecue with friends. She said there’s a lot of pressure being a first-generation student but added that her parents are excited for her and her future.  

“I hope that by getting a college degree that I’ll be able to provide more for my family,” said Benavides, who is majoring in social work. “Bills have always been stressful. It was definitely always scary to watch my parents struggle, like wondering what was going to happen with groceries the following week, phone bills and bills for the house in general. I’m really excited to be able to support my family financially on my own and be like, ‘Look, dad. I did this. I did it for you guys.' "


 Benavides, from Hemet, California, remembers the moment she learned about CMU. 

“I was in high school when I heard about CMU and learned that it was a hands-on teaching institution and that was really important to me,” said Benavides, “I remember coming home that day with a pamphlet and I said, ‘Dad, this is it. I found it, this is my school!’ Without a question I knew CMU was for me and I applied right away.”

“Being a first-generation student is all about breaking down barriers. I want my siblings and cousins to see me and know that they can do this too,” said Yaritza Mendoza, a junior from Glenwood Springs who was also at Monday's event. 


Because CMU is a First-Generation Serving Institution, there are a variety of resources available to first-generation students, one being TRIO-SSS. The program offers workshops, individualized attention and mentoring so TRIO participants can achieve their academic, personal, financial and professional goals. Another is COSI, which offers financial assistant for students, advice as well as mentoring.  

“I’m thankful to CMU. The school has supported me through a ton of different resources, programs like TRIO and COSI. I met a lot of my friends though TRIO, students who are also first-gen,” said Mendoza.

"As a Human Scale University, our whole campus is bought in to this notion that we’re in community with one another and we’re always looking for ways to go the extra mile to help a fellow Maverick. Our campus succeeds in serving these students because, everywhere they turn, they'll find professors, staff members or other leaders who are also the first in their families to graduate from college. It's who we are," said Marshall.


The Fearless First program included remarks from President John Marshall, first-generation student Shayli Peterson, first-generation faculty member Barry Laga, PhD, and first-generation staff member Allison Steigerwald, PhD.


Written by Kelsey Coleman