'I am Historic' celebrates students' inspiring journeys to Brandeis

The Student Support Services Program celebrates 25 Years of supporting first-generation students

Photos/Daniela Marquez '17 and Yeng Her '16
They’ve beaten the odds and overcome obstacles to become part of the Brandeis community. For that — and for their many achievements at Brandeis — they are historic.
On April 17, Brandeis’ the Student Support Services Program (SSSP), which this year celebrates 25 years of supporting students who are the first in their family to earn a college degree, held an event called “I Am Historic” to recognize each student’s remarkable journeys.  SSSP provides academic advising, peer mentoring, tutoring and other services for the 150 students who participate in their program that is located in Academic Services.
The event, which also shed light on the impact the civil rights and social justice movements have had on educational access for people of all races and social classes, affirmed many Brandeis students who are leaders both in and out of the classroom.
The “I Am Historic” festivities began with a performance of the Beyoncé song “I Was Here” by Nyah Macklin ’16, an SSSP student and the Student Union President. The song’s lyrics, which celebrate making a difference in other peoples’ lives and being remembered for doing good, set the tone for the rest of the evening.
Vinh Nguyen ’15, an aspiring high-school biology teacher, spoke about how being at Brandeis challenged him to think about what he could do to change the world in positive ways through dedicating himself to a profession in education. Colleen Beckford ’15, who earned a bachelor’s degree at Brandeis and will complete her master’s degree in Biotechnology this May, spoke about her incredible journey from her family’s immigration from Jamaica to preparing for a future in research and medicine through opportunities afforded to her at Brandeis. 
A photo documentary by Ajai Scott ’15 and Yeng Her ’16 paid tribute to the many SSSP students who have stories that are just as compelling. When asked what makes them historic, they offered simple yet inspirational responses. One student said, “I am historic because I am continuing the legacy my parents started.” Another said, “I am historic because I am the birth of a revolution.” Still another said, “I am historic because I refuse to give up.”
“It was really inspiring to see how people described themselves,” says Nguyen. “Everyone has a story, but you don’t know it until they tell you. So it’s very eye-opening. There are so many different ways people talk about their own histories and about themselves, their families and their friends. It’s a great diversity.”
In addition to the event, SSSP students designed and created an exhibition inside the Academic Services office that showcases their stories as well as Brandeis’ deep commitment to civil rights and social change. Following the “I Am Historic” event, students gave visitors a tour of the exhibition, which features letters written by Albert Einstein, newspaper clippings about the civil rights movement and photos that demonstrate Brandeis’ historic engagement in social justice issues.
SSSP Director Dr. Jennifer Morazes, herself a first-generation college student, affirmed that Brandeis distinguishes itself among elite universities in its 25 years of support for first-generation and low-income college students through SSSP.  She acknowledged the significant contributions of students in SSSP, remarking that “It’s not that you will someday be historic – you all already are.”
SSSP is funded by a TRiO grant through the U.S. Department of Education as well as through institutional support from Brandeis.

Categories: General, Student Life

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