Griffin Ell / Art Director

Tara Westover, author of the book Educated explained why she wrote her book, “I wanted to make sense of it.”

Westover said, “I’ve gone through a bunch of experiences that I couldn’t make any sense of, I didn’t understand them and I wasn’t sure what had happened. I knew I gained a lot and I’ve lost a lot and I didn’t really know how to make sense of that. I’ve gained all this education and I had a PHD but yet I had lost connections with my own family, and that was my own decision.” Westover continued, “What I did at the end of the book, the story I was trying to tell was pretty much about letting that change take root. Allowing myself to change enough to make new decisions even about my family.”

November 8 turns out to be the national first-generation college student celebration day. The Keene State College Trio program held a week-long celebration for first-generation college students. The week started with a study skills workshop on Monday, November 2, followed by a study night on Tuesday. On Wednesday a table was set up in the Student Center for the first-gen celebration. Monday, November 9 in the student center author of the book Educated, Tara Westover was a special virtual guest for the first-generation celebration. A study night was also followed right after the celebration. A social program called Aspire held a paint night on November 10 to bring the week to an end. Mark Schmidl-Gagne, an educational counselor at the Aspire program, said, “The week was meant to bring together students and have them be aware.”

About 27 students and staff members attended the dinner celebration where each table had two students and one staff member to interact. About 70 participants were viewing the virtual webinar that Tara Westover was speaking in.

Schmidl-Gagne said, “Educated has become the foundation of our college 102 class, which assists and supports first generation low income students as they make the transition to

higher education.”

Keene State College President Melinda D. Treadwell is a first generation college student. Schmidl-Gagne said “Treadwell had a family who knew little about the transition to college and she didn’t know much more. Treadwell attended the dinner celebration where other first generation college students could learn and hear her story. “She talks very eloquently about her experience and her learning and her finding connections with residential life and faculty members in departments that helped her and turned her in the direction she wants to go,” Schmidl-Gagne said.

Treadwell asked Westover, “I was curious, people have reacted so strongly to you and your book, what has surprised you the most and what have you learned the most as you met all of the people that helped you publish?”

“There’s a lot to be said, I think, for taking the thing that you’re most worried about and not being afraid of sharing it; and if you accept it yourself seeing how other people would be about it, there’s something that can be relieving about that process of the thing that you are most fearful of and ashamed of and bringing it out into the light of day,” said Westover.

For first generation college students looking for help, the Aspire program is a great resource for various obstacles, and is located on the first floor of the Elliot Center.


Amber Olson can be contacted at:

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