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WKU program prepares high schoolers as first-generation college students

Fons Cervera

A Western Kentucky University program is making it easier for high school students to get to college as a first-generation student. WKU's F1st-Gen On the Hill is a program that offers resources and scholarship opportunities to first generation students. A first generation student attending college who comes from a family where the parents or guardians have not completed a 4-year college degree.

Sandy Cruz is an ambassador for the program and a first generation student at WKU. She says the program provides vital information for high school students.

"As a first generation student you don't really have a familial role model to teach you about what college is like and what FAFSA and financial aid," Cruz said, "so to teach them about opportunities and local opportunities and that way they can get connections here. That's why were here.”

The program hosts 20 high school students on WKU’s campus for three days during the summer. The mission is to help soon-to-be first-generation college students get acclimated to life as a college student by walking the campus, meet instructors, learn about college programs they’re interested in and provide information about financial aid.

Roughly 30% of WKU's undergraduates are first-generation students. April McCauley, is a member of the planning committee for the program. She said students might need support during the transition to college.

"If you’re going to be a first generation college student but people in your family don't have that experience going to college can be really intimidating," McCauley said.

The program is an initiative through WKU's Office of the Provost, where it also connects WKU faculty and staff who are first-gen graduates with students or incoming freshman to form a connection with someone on campus and build networking skills.

The F1st-Gen high school summer camp is free and open to high school students across Kentucky.

Jacob Martin is a Reporter at WKU Public Radio. He joined the newsroom from Kansas City, where he covered the city’s underserved communities and general assignments at NPR member station, KCUR. A Louisville native, he spent seven years living in Brooklyn, New York before moving back to Kentucky. Email him at Jacob.martin@wku.edu.