Revisiting the film “First Generation”, featuring William Tierney

Documentary about college access streaming for free in celebration of Go College! Day on September 24

By Katherine Mechling

William G. Tierney, Wilbur-Kieffer Professor of Higher Education and co-director of the Pullias Center for Higher Education, served as a featured education expert in the award-winning film First Generation. The documentary, initially released in 2011, tells the story of four high school students who set out to break the cycle of poverty and bring hope to their families and communities by pursuing a college education. The film has been made available to the public in anticipation of Go College! Day on September 24, a day devoted to increasing the national dialogue about improving college access.

First Generation poster

First Generation poster

“A lot of these kids have never set foot on a college campus,” Tierney explains of high school students whose parents did not attend college. “They don’t talk about going to college. They think it’s private territory.” Tierney, who is spending the 2015–16 academic year on sabbatical in India as a Fulbright-Nehru scholar, has spent over two decades conducting research on college readiness for underrepresented youth. He has published numerous works on college access, including co-authoring “Making it Happen: Increasing California Access and Participation in California Higher Education” and editing the book The Problem of College Readiness.

“A lot of these kids have never set foot on a college campus. They don’t talk about going to college. They think it’s private territory.”
—William G. Tierney, Wilbur-Kieffer Professor of Higher Education

“This country is afraid of dealing with issues of class,” says Tierney in the film. “We have to recognize that poor students are predominately underrepresented in higher education.”

Thanks to a partnership between the Go College! initiative, Wells Fargo and First Generation, the full film is now available for free streaming on the new website Go College! Now. The site provides an innovative bilingual platform with numerous resources—the film included—for students, parents, guidance counselors and educational advocates to get involved with the issue of college access.

With the goal of increasing the national dialogue about the importance of improving college access, September 24 has been designated Go College! Day. Go College! encourages individuals and communities across the country to screen the film and take a pledge to increase the number of first generation and low-income college graduates in the United States.