Gainesville, FL – The first annual First Generation Summit took place on November 8, 2014. The summit was sponsored by the Machen Florida Opportunity Scholars program, the First Generation Student Organization, and the Gates Millennium Scholars. The summit’s theme, “Claiming Your Story,” was aimed at encouraging first generation college students to understand, share, and reflect on their story. There were a total of thirty students who participated in this summit.

The day long summit included sessions on the importance of claiming your story, how to tell your story, who wants to hear it, and sharing your story. Students heard from a variety of presenters about each topic.

Jaron Jones, from Self Narrate, presented on how to narrate your life experiences. He expressed ways in which students can effectively format their life experiences through storytelling. Jaron taught the students how to expand their stories to be more descriptive. He used the example of someone asking you what you have for breakfast. A response might be “cereal” but he encouraged students to share beyond that answer. An expanded answer including what you did, where you did it, how it was done, or the choices you had to make would be a more efficient answer in order to engage your audience.

Dwayne Peterson, Assistant Director for Employer Development at the University of Florida’s Career Resource Center, and Ernesto Valderrama, CVS District Manager for Gainesville Territory, both first generation graduates had an open discussion with our students about how to share your story during the job search.

Dwayne Peterson stated “first generation is an invisible identity. You have to tell them who you are for them to know.”

Ernesto Valderrama expressed that as a hiring manager he seeks to hire other first generation students. “Employers want self-starters,” he said. Utilizing your story in a job interview can show the unique qualities you will bring to a team as a first generation student or graduate.

Stephanie Webster and student facilitators from the University of Florida’s Dial Center coordinated breakout sessions addressing topics such as nonverbal communication, elevator speeches, and the “dos and don’ts” of public speaking.

The summit concluded with final reflection and time for students to share their stories with one another. There were opportunities to share with a partner, in front of the entire group, and to record your story.

There will be follow up activities with the summit participants in order to continue fostering the formation of their stories.

For more information, please contact Caitlyn LoMonte,