Washburn celebrates its ‘First-generation Family of the Year’ recipients


Christina Noland

President JuliAnn Mazachek invites Jennifer Henson, recipient of the “First-generation Family of the Year” award, to speak on her accomplishment. Recognizing students and families for their dedication has been a long tradition for Washburn.

Washburn’s community is made up of students from all backgrounds and over 40% are reported as first-generation students. These students are defined by Washburn as any learners whose parents or legal guardians have not completed a bachelor’s degree.

Washburn has many students who are dedicated to the university and often highlights them for their services.

On Wednesday, April 5, 2023, Washburn recognized one of these students as the “First-generation Family of the Year” at 4 p.m. in Mabee Library.

During the celebration, Mazachek announced Jennifer Henson, a junior in social work, as the recipient. Henson’s husband, Bill, and three children, Lucian, Declan and Olivia, were also recognized for supporting Henson.

Henson is a hard-working and dedicated student maintaining a 4.0 GPA throughout her college career so far. She works as a connector for other first-gen students on campus and strives to create a sense of community for other adult learners.

Mazachek invited Henson to say a few words and receive her plaque. Henson expressed her thankfulness and pointed out that she didn’t make this achievement on her own.

“First thing I have to say is I don’t feel like I’m any more deserving of this than any of my other first-generation students. I’m so honored to be chosen and I want to say I could not have done this without all of you either,” Henson said.

She proceeded to thank her professors and staff for their support, mentioning how they were always understanding of her responsibilities as a mother and allowed her to bring her children to class when needed.

Henson also discussed what this award meant to her.

“This means a lot because this was a very hard road. I’ve spent many nights over the books just in tears because, I mean, it’s just hard,” Henson said. “So this is amazing, I feel it’s worth it. Yeah, it’s all worth it.”

Henson provided advice for other first-gen and adult learners.

“Don’t be afraid to show up. You are included. And yes, it looks different for us. But that doesn’t mean it’s bad and it doesn’t mean that people won’t work with you,” Henson said. “You don’t need to hide and the more you’re out there, you’re gonna feel more comfortable.”

After graduating, Henson plans on applying for her master’s.

Mazachek describes Washburn as a “student-centered” college, where the focus is on all students and helping them be successful. For that reason, the university has programs in place to aid first-generation students in having their best college experience and fully integrating into campus.

To learn more about Washburn’s first-generation programs, click here.


Edited by Simran Shrestha and LeSha’ davis