November 8, 2018: First-Generation College Celebration
Today marks the second annual First-Generation College Celebration, launched last year by the Council for Opportunity in Education and the Center for First-generation Student Success. This event marks the anniversary of the signing of the 1965 Higher Education Act, which helped millions of low-income students become the first in their families to earn college degrees.
Here at College Now, many of the students we serve daily are – or will become – first-generation college students. These students are among the first in their families to view college as a viable option and to think about education after high school. Our advisors help these students learn the ropes of the college application process, help them discover the ins and outs of postsecondary education that their classmates with parents or family members who have postsecondary degrees may already know. Once these students move on to their postsecondary education, the questions don’t stop – which is where the College Now Mentoring Program comes into play.
The College Now Mentoring Program pairs College Now scholarship recipients with mentors in the Greater Cleveland community who help them through their postsecondary years. Especially for first-generation college students, having someone to help them through their college years is a vital part of their success. And, many of our mentors are first-generation college students themselves! They have been in the same place as many of our scholarship recipients, so can provide advice that is exactly what these students need to hear.
Being the first in a family to attend college may be intimidating. However, as many of our mentors and current students have seen, the struggles of being a first-generation college student are more than worth it in the end. But don’t take our word for it – here are some thoughts straight from our mentors and students themselves!
“I would not be where I am today without my education. At the time my family didn’t really understand how things worked but they did know it was important that I complete my degree. I’m forever grateful for that ‘push.’” – Terry J., mentor
“If the major is carefully chosen and high grades achieved, a college degree can have a major positive impact on your life. I earned my degree from Youngstown State University and it propelled me to a great career. Go for it. It can do the same for you!” – Robert P., mentor
“Being the first person in my family to attend college brought an entirely new set of expectations and experiences that no one in my family had experienced before. The application process itself was a whole new ballgame, and not one that anyone in my family could necessarily help me with. Given this situation, I was incredibly grateful to find support in outside resources and programs like College Now.
“Having the opportunity to attend college and earn my degree has put me on a path to success that would not have been possible otherwise. I am currently pursuing a dual-degree program and will graduate this coming May with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and a Bachelor of Arts in the Spanish Language and Culture. College has also given me many other opportunities—and I’ve been blessed to be able to study abroad in Costa Rica, lead various student organizations, build professional experience in healthcare, and so much more!” – Mary C., student
First-generation college students can also be the catalyst for others in their family to pursue a postsecondary education – sometimes even encouraging their parents to return to school and get their degrees.
“Being a first-generation college student gives me an extreme sense of pride. I didn’t know it at the time, but looking back, I set the precedent for my siblings to go to college as well as other members of my family. I showed them that it was possible. Our family now has a generation of educated adults that seemed nearly impossible some years ago.” – Heidi N., mentor
“College not only had a major impact on my life, but it saved my life. Attending college opened up doors I only dreamt about and if I had the chance to go back I would do it all over again and I am! College not only allowed me to be a leading example for the students I work with, but it also encouraged my parents to attend college. #collegerocks #firstgen #collegenowrocks!” – Cierra K., former College Now Scholarship recipient
“As a first-generation college graduate, I can tell you that I am very proud of my accomplishment and my dedication to achieving my goals. My three children are all second-generation college graduates and that gives me great pride in knowing that my decision to complete my degree set higher standards for my children and, hopefully, future generations to come!” – Michelle L., mentor
“I was the youngest of five with a pretty big age difference between siblings, who ranged from the oldest being 15 years, 14 years, 10 years and then seven years older than me. Yes, I was the unplanned ‘oops’ – but have enjoyed being the one who broke the mold. I was the first in my family to pursue a four-year degree. My father immigrated from Czechoslovakia when he was four years old, lost his father very young and only finished eighth grade. My mother graduated high school, but immediately began working as a waitress and married my father at the grand old age of 19.
“When I began to share with my parents that I intended to go onto college, I think they didn’t really take me seriously. After all, they had raised four other children who either enlisted in the military or entered the workforce right from high school; it was a foreign idea for them. No college fund set up, no regular dinner discussions on what I needed to do either academically or otherwise to make sure that I could attend the college of my choice. Nope. Those conversations never happened. During my junior and senior years, I went on campus visits with my friends or with their families. My parents didn’t see the need. But, as I said, I liked being the one to break the mold, so I continued to follow my dreams.
“Certainly, it was a struggle financially without having the support of my parents or role models within my family to follow. I may have missed out on some social activities in high school or during summer breaks, but it was well worth it. I spent my summers working three jobs simultaneously: babysitting, teaching swimming lessons and scooping ice cream. My days started at 7 am and ended after 11 pm. During the school year, I started and managed a babysitting club – parents would call, and I would arrange jobs for my friends. All of that required organization, focus and planning which helped me throughout high school, college and certainly in my professional career.” – Barb S., mentor
If you haven’t been following us on social media already, make sure you follow College Now on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as we continue to celebrate today’s First-Generation College Celebration.