Program aims to help first-generation students

A scholarship offered to first- generation students will provide them more than just funding.

The First Scholars is a Suder Foundation program out of Plano, Texas that offers a $5,000 scholarship to incoming freshman at five universities in the country. It requires recipients to participate in campus volunteer and leader training as well as a special section of the University College 101 class. The Suder family met with the First Scholars UCOL 101 group and SIU faculty members so the foundation will continue to grant the university the scholarship after the five-year agreement ends in 2014, said Christina Gilroy, First Scholars program coordinator, in an email.

First Scholars is a five-year, $1 million program that is disbursed among SIUC, University of Kentucky, University of Alabama, University of Memphis and Washington State University. SIUC was chosen for the scholarship in 2010 and began to offer it in fall 2011, according to the university’s website.

In a 2010 article on the university’s website, Chancellor Rita Cheng said students’ first year of college is essential to their success.

“We provide support systems and additional tools to help our first-year students make a successful transition to the university because success that first year is key to students reaching their educational goals,” Cheng said in the article. “But first-generation students

can face additional challenges, and this program will enhance our efforts at helping them succeed throughout their careers here.”

The scholarship is offered to selected first-time freshmen who are also first-generation college students, which means neither parent has more than two years of education beyond high school and did not earn a post- secondary degree. The students must also be enrolled at the university full-time, according to the SIU First Scholars website.

Twenty students are selected for the scholarship and must agree to attend a new student orientation, enroll in the University College 101 class that is designated for First Scholar students during the fall semester and participate in service projects, campus activities and workshops. They must also attend meetings with the program coordinator, participate in the peer mentor program, maintain a 2.5 grade point average and transition to a leadership role as an upperclassman, according to the program’s website.

The students are chosen based on the level of support they need, said Diane Schorr, executive director of the Suder foundation.

“Basically, we’re not necessarily looking for honor students but instead students who fall somewhere in the middle,” Schorr said.

Gilroy said this is the second year SIUC has had the scholarship.

The scholarship is divided between the fall and spring semesters for four years, according to the website, and applications are being accepted for the 2013-2014 fiscal year.

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