First-Gen Celebration Highlights Student Pride

First-Gen Celebration Highlights Student Pride

Claudia Intama is proud to be a first-generation college student at UMF (Photo courtesy of Andrea Sweidom)



   On November 8th, confetti rained down over Mantor Green as First-Gen Celebration Day began. Sponsored by UMF’s Johnson Scholars program, the celebration consisted of commemorative flag-making in Olson Student Center, trivia in the Landing, and concluded in Roberts where students stood on stage and shared their experiences of being the first in their family to attend college. Faculty members and former first-generation college students John Messier and Nick Koban both spoke at the event.

   “It was liberating, a celebration of things why often try to hide. It was great, being proud of our identity,” said Claudia Intama.

   “Sometimes first-gen students don’t feel like they belong. They arrive on campus faced with barriers that other students don’t have. The celebration reminds them that they belong,” said Lynn Ploof-Davis, director of TRIO programs at UMF.

   Ploof-Davis also manages Johnson Scholars, which serves 180 UMF students who are the first in their family to attend college. Her department provides advising, support, cultural opportunities, graduate school trips, and other programs to help those students thrive throughout their four years; students also attend an annual conference to share their experiences with other Johnson Scholars students from across New England.

    The program has a dedicated study lounge in Franklin Hall, where older Johnson Scholars students work as peer-advisors for other students in the program. Student employees also played a key role in setting up the event, where they also manned several booths in Olson where students could make DIY pins expressing that–at least from what this reporter saw–they are #firstgenproud.

   “I work with both high school and college students,” said Ploof-Davis. “[I prepare high school students to go to college after graduation and college students to be prepared [when they graduate.]” Ploof-Davis’s favorite aspect of her job is helping one group enter and the other leave–both at the same time.

   The annual First-Gen Celebration commemorates the authorization of the Higher Education Act signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965. The bill funded programs to increase the financial aid given to students pursuing higher education as part of the administration’s War on Poverty, while also creating Federal TRIO programs to recruit and retain students from low-income families.   

   UMF has two TRIO programs: Johnson Scholars and Upward Bound. Ploof-Davis oversees both. Her work with Upward Bound takes her to 18 target high schools, where she engages students in the college application process while reinforcing good study habits and life skills that will help them on their way.      

Midterm Election Controversy

Midterm Election Controversy

By Andrea Swiedom Contributing Writer

     On election day, students saw Farmington

Professor Sarah Hardy in her “emergency voter suppression” poncho (Photo by Andrea Swiedom)

community member Bill Crandall, who set up a sign outside of the polls at the Farmington Community Center. Given Crandall’s professional setup, there has been controversy as to whether Crandall was posing as a poll official to intimidate young, first-time voters.

  Crandall was bundled up and prepared for his self-imposed, all-day shift to inform the public about the laws outlined in the last paragraph of the Maine Voting Residence Fact Sheet on the website.  Even the professionally-made sign that displayed these laws had protection against the rain beneath a pop-up tent that faced the direction of High Street rather than the community center’s entrance on Middle Street.      

   Crandall was acting independently by presenting information about the responsibilities that follow registering to vote in Maine which include registering a vehicle within 30 days and potentially being subject to Maine income tax.  Crandall did not include a single quote from the section of the voting fact sheet entitled “Students,” which clarifies the often confusing status of a student’s residency when attending an out-of-state university.

   Students walking from campus often took High Street to get to the polls. For freshman Grace McIntosh and her friends, Crandall was their first impression of the community center when they walked from Mallett Hall.  

   McIntosh attended high school with Crandall’s son. “[I assumed Crandall was] someone who was helping out with the voting process, possibly that he was answering questions on what to do for first-time voters,” McIntosh said through an email.

Bill Crandall’s sign outside the Farmington Community Center (Photo by Andrea Swiedom)

   To mathematics professor Sarah Hardy, the way in which Crandall presented these laws was “a little bit out of context.”  Hardy is no stranger to voting rights activism and petitioned against the 2011 bill to appeal same day voting registration in Maine.  When Hardy learned about Crandall’s sign from a long threaded email sent by concerned community members, her voter suppression alarm bells started ringing.  

   Hardy quickly brushed up on Maine voting laws and then set out with a bright yellow poncho determined to stick out the rest of the stormy day by standing right next to Crandall to ensure students were not intimidated to vote.

   By the time Hardy arrived around 4 p.m., emails had already been sent out to faculty and students describing the sign as “misleading.”  Despite Hardy’s presence at the polls and campus emails, the sign did cause at least one student to feel unraveled according to the president of UMF’s College Democrats Club, Jeffrey Willey, who spent election day in the student center reminding students how and where to vote.  

   Willey said, “One girl came up to me, she was like, pretty shaken…because she had convinced her friend to vote that morning and to go and register.” Willey explained that after she learned about the laws Crandall was presenting them, she was worried “that she had convinced her friend to break the law and that he was gonna go to jail and something serious like that.”

   Crandall is willing to articulate his motives to The Farmington Flyer after he meets with interim president Eric Brown. Crandall said he feels like the situation was “blown out of proportion.”  

   Meanwhile, several community and faculty members feel as though Crandall’s efforts on election day were targeted towards deterring students from casting a ballot.  As Hardy put it, with a stone-cold straight face, “Don’t mess with my students.”

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