New program helps first generation studentsBy Haley Herfurth | 09/08/2010 11:25pm
With the creation of the Alabama First program, the University is making an effort to help first generation college students throughout their college experience. Nearly 20 percent of the UA undergraduate population is made up of first generation college students.
Alabama First began supporting students in July, sending out information about resources and events planned for them throughout the upcoming year, as well as assigning them a student mentor to guide them throughout the year.
Resources include a midterm grade intervention and a workshop on study tips and time management. Alabama First also plans to host tailgates, a bowling party and possibly a tour of the president’s mansion exclusively for first generation college students.
Lowell K. Davis, assistant dean of students, assistant to the vice provost for Academic Affairs and coordinator of the Alabama First program, said Alabama First continues communication with parents of first generation students after their students begin school.
“We communicate with the parents and invite them to the activities,” Davis said. “First generation parents may not know what is expected of their son or daughter in college. They may not know the terminology or be familiar with the financial aid or admissions processes. We try to reach out and tell them what to do to make sure their son or daughter will be successful here.”
Alabama First also assists parents in understanding their son’s or daughter’s college experience and supporting them in their endeavors. Alabama First asks parents to be familiar with University resources and make their students aware of their uses. Parents are also encouraged to make sure their students get to know their professors and not spend too much time online.
Motell Foster, a freshman majoring in telecommunications and film, is a first generation college student who said he fell in love with the campus the first time he toured it. After receiving a scholarship, he said he knew it was the place for him.
“I toured Auburn and UAB,” he said. “Alabama just felt down home.”
Foster, who lived in Talladega’s Presbyterian Home for Children for three years and has been a part of foster care for seven, says he has been on his own for most of his life.
“Everyone was happy for me and encouraged me to come to the University,” he said. “All of the support I’ve received from UA is amazing.”
While many colleges have programs designed to help first generation students, many are organized by demographics such as race, sex and financial need. Alabama First is distinctive in that it supports all first generation college students, regardless of demographic.