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UF celebrating first-generation graduates Wednesday night

Online celebration tonight, commencement in a few months.

The University of Florida will celebrate first-generation college students with a virtual event Wednesday night.

The 7 p.m. livestream recognizes the 176 spring 2020 grads in the Machen Florida Opportunity Scholars Program, which supports low-income students who are first in their families to attend college.

The agenda includes keynotes from three MFOS alumni who were recently selected for the UF’s 40 under 40, a current senior in the program, and an appearance by former UF President and MFOS namesake Bernie Machen, who will lead the MFOS alumni pinning ceremony.

Graduating MFOS students will have a chance to speak during an “open mic” portion.

“The MFOS Virtual Graduation Celebration is a chance to celebrate our scholars as they embark on a new, postgraduate journey,” said Dr. Leslie Pendleton, senior director of the program. “For first-generation college students, commencement is a time of excitement. It’s a chance to turn the tassel, not only to signify the completion of the degree, but the change from first-generation student to first-generation graduate.”

The virtual celebration was planned after commencement ceremonies were put on hold due to the new coronavirus. Social distancing guidelines discourage gathering of 10 or more people, making the traditional walk a no-go for now.

Grads will have an opportunity to walk in a cap and gown during the July 31-Aug. 2 weekend, social distancing rules permitting. Date and time updates will be posted on UF’s website.

“Graduation is about recognizing all the hard work I’ve done the past four years to become a first-gen graduate as well as honoring my immigrant parents and the countless sacrifices they made for me,” said Cindy Jara, a fourth-year public relations student from Kissimmee, FL.

“Even though I won’t be walking across the stage on May 1, I will still celebrate this milestone with a video call with my friends and family. And I know when I do get to walk across that stage, those same friends and family will be there to cheer me on as if nothing ever happened.”

UF also announced Publix will help MFOS celebrate the day at home with a coupon for a free carton of ice cream — “a sweet end to their time in the program,” the university said.

On Tuesday, UF encouraged alumni and other members of the Gator Nation to help celebrate the class of 2020 by posting encouraging or inspirational messages using the hashtag #DearGators2020. Graduates are also invited to celebrate together using the #UFGrad hashtag.

Written By

Drew Wilson covers legislative campaigns and fundraising for Florida Politics. He is a former editor at The Independent Florida Alligator and business correspondent at The Hollywood Reporter. Wilson, a University of Florida alumnus, covered the state economy and Legislature for LobbyTools and The Florida Current prior to joining Florida Politics.

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