Roaring Fork Schools are joining educational institutions around the country in Friday’s First-Generation College Celebration, recognizing the success of first-generation college students and the unique challenges they face.
“First-generation students face unique challenges in the college admissions and matriculation process,” David Smith, Roaring Fork PreCollegiate Program director, said in a news release.
“They must navigate complex administrative systems and campus spaces that were not designed for them, and they cannot rely on the experience of their families to help them when problems arise,” he said. “Often students report feeling like an impostor or that they don’t belong once they get to college, which not surprisingly leads to isolation and disengagement.”
A student is first generation if he or she would be the first in the family to obtain a college degree. In the Roaring Fork Schools, 1,637 of the district’s 5,651 families have reported that one or both parents did not graduate from college.
This number is likely much lower than the actual figure, as this information tends to be under-reported, Smith said.
According to the release, the Roaring Fork Schools’ 2019-24 strategic plan focuses on ensuring that all students graduate with the knowledge, character and life skills to enroll and succeed in a post-secondary education.
“Our counselors and teachers do amazing work to make sure all students are prepared to succeed, and many are attuned to the needs of first-generation students,” District Superintendent Rob Stein said in the release. “Of course, there’s always more to be done.”
The PreCollegiate Program is a college access and preparation program within the school district that focuses solely on first-generation college students.
“PreCollegiate does a great job of identifying students whose parents didn’t go to college and helping them envision themselves as college-bound,” Stein said. “PreCollegiate provides wraparound supports including mentoring, college visits, monitoring, and all the things that put these students on a trajectory to go far in their educational careers.”
The program works to:
• Identify promising first-generation students starting in middle school;
• Motivate them to pursue higher education; and,
• Make sure students have the information, resources, and relevant life skills they need to successfully complete high school and transition into the post-secondary program of their choice.
Currently, the program is serving 390 middle and high school students throughout the district.
PreCollegiate plans to mark the Nov. 8 First-Generation College Celebration by spotlighting some of the accomplishments and achievements of its alumni and current students.
PreCollegiate’s college graduation rate is 73%, three times the national average for first-generation students, according to the release. In addition, the 58 members of the PreCollegiate class of 2020 have already received over 110 college acceptances so far this year.
“Nationwide, first-generation, low-income students have an incredibly low college completion rate,” Smith added. “And, more often than not, the reason is not academic ability, but rather social-emotional, financial or bureaucratic issues that get in the way. We see our job as empowering students to help overcome those issues and understand that they absolutely belong in college.”
PreCollegiate is a partnership between the Roaring Fork School District, Colorado Mountain College, the University of Colorado at Boulder and private philanthropy. It utilizes volunteer mentors from throughout the valley to help set a college-going expectation for its students.