Friday, October 16, 2009

Year-End Celebration Marks Successful First Generation Project

The First Generation Project, which helps sustain first-generation college students and prospective students in their efforts to reach their academic goals, marked its second year of successful outreach and academic support with a celebration at the Student Residence and Conference Centre on March 31.

More than 60 students and college staff came together to congratulate each other for working through another academic year that otherwise might have been insurmountable for students with little support at home. President Ann Buller was the keynote speaker at the mixer.

A First Generation student is defined as one whose parent(s) did not complete college, university or an apprenticeship program in Canada. There are more than 1,500 self-identified First Generation students on Centennial's database.

"By self identifying, they have told us they are looking for a mentor and academic support as they negotiate through an unfamiliar institution, an experience their parents likely never had themselves," says Project Manager Esther Broomfield, a member of the college's Student Life Enhancement Division. "Many times they're just looking for referrals to services we offer. Guiding them is an important retention function to keep them in college."

The project, funded by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, provides inclusive programming, positive social relationships and information that are fundamental to students achieving success at college and in the community. "Lunch and Learn" sessions on campus allow students to get some pointers on such disparate topics as personal finance, exam preparation, stress management and sexual health, to help them cope with the responsibilities of being an independent college learner.

In addition to assisting Centennial's own students, project mentors also visit local high schools once a week to reach out to first-generation students there who also may be struggling to stay in school. Sessions at lunchtime or after school bring together younger students with first-generation college education students who know first-hand the challenges of being motivated to get good grades.

Centennial's First Generation Project is designed to inspire youth between the ages of 12 to 24 years to maximize their potential through academic success and access to post-secondary education. By all accounts, the project has been well received and is making a difference. Unfortunately, the government has not committed to funding the work taking place at a number of Ontario colleges and universities beyond the initial three-year time frame.

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