UM students dress for success as First Gen Canes Professional Closet event returns

Men's suits on hangers in boutique store Photo credit: Alexey Strelkov via Pexels

Ranging from shirts and pants, to skirts, dresses and accessories, First Gen Canes is bridging gaps one stitch at a time to build a better future for first generation students at the University of Miami.

Collaborating with Empower Me First and Bake Back America, the organization will be hosting the Second Annual Professional Closet Event scheduled on Friday, Mar. 22, from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. at Lakeside Pavilion.

“The Second Annual Professional Closet Event is crucial because it offers another chance to provide much-needed resources to UM first-generation students,” FGC Special Events Chair Zina Martinez said. “It’s an opportunity for First Gen ‘Canes to demonstrate our commitment to bridging gaps between disadvantaged and privileged individuals in our pursuit of equity.”

Offering clothing for all first generation students, attendees can choose from a wide variety of business attire.

Sourced from individual donors, organizations and businesses, collaborators like Bake Back America and Empower Me First help to provide their support alongside First Gen Canes through their donations.

“Bake Back America’s Students Helping Students program aligns with the mission of providing resources to first-generation students,” Martinez said. “Each organization plays a role in contributing resources, expertise and support to ensure the success of the Professional Closet Event.”

First Gen Canes has also partnered with the Toppel Career center to offer support for professional success beyond the donations, including resume-building workshops, interview preparation tips and information on internship and job opportunities.

Representatives at the event will be available to provide additional resources and opportunities for students.

Since the organization was founded in 2022, they have become a source for community support and empowerment for those that do not have access to resources or guidance in a professional setting.

The Professional Closet Event aims to foster confidence and a sense of belonging, addressing the needs of students who are facing barriers in the professional world.

“First Gen Canes really allows students at University of Miami to stand with their heads held high, and motivates them to achieve bigger and better things in life,” external co-vice president of First Gen Canes, Brenis Bostick said. “Equipped with the necessary tools, we can alleviate another obstacle for first generation college students.”

Providing mentorship, career resources and valuable networking opportunities First Gen Canes is addressing the tangible needs of first generation students on campus and serves as a reminder that everyone deserves equal opportunity to achieve professional success.

“As a first generation student, navigating the ins and outs of college life already presents challenges,” Bostick said. “Events like these help to ease the stress of college students, and we will continue to hold them so long as there is a student in need.”

First Gen Canes hopes to continue promoting community, connection and communication in the future through collaborating with more organizations and incorporating additional support services.

The organization also plans on expanding these resources to high school students to provide access to mentorship and guidance for future first generation college students.

“Coming from a family unfamiliar with professional environments, it took my college experience to realize the importance of our external image,” Martinez said. “Fortunately, resources like the Professional Closet provide the chance to reshape perceptions and ensure that skills and knowledge won’t be discounted based on appearances.”