MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WBOY) — As part of the National First-Generation College Celebration, West Virginia University kicked off a week of celebrations for first-generation students at the Erickson Alumni Center on Tuesday.

First-generation students are defined by university officials as a person whose parents have not earned a four-year degree from a college or university in the United States. The university is recognizing first-generation students, faculty, staff, and alumni and their accomplishments and providing a networking opportunity at the alumni center.

“So, it’s great for them to realize that they’re not alone and that they can make these connections, not only getting them through that first four years, but we want to push them, you know, can they get that masters, that doctorate that they’re, they’re hoping for because just completing the four years is overwhelming let alone thinking about the next step which is why it’s so great to connect them to faculty,” said Michelle Paden, the Program Coordinator of First Generation Initiatives at West Virginia University.

University officials said that they have approximately 4,000 undergraduate students who are first-generation students and that makes up 22% of the total student body that self-identify as first-generation.

“We have worked with the First Scholars Network for a couple of years now and within that, we have now been designated as a First Gen Forward Campus, and so with that, they see the work that we are trying to do and trying to improve that retention and the experience for those first generations students. So, it’s very exciting that we have that First Gen Forward designation, and you can see that we are really trying to make a better experience for students,” Paden said.

On, Wednesday, the John Chambers College of Business and Economics will be hosting a photo opportunity, a greetings of gratitude, as well as the First-Generation Experience Panel starting at noon in the Reynolds Hall Atrium.