New program for first-generation college students

  • Mon Aug 5th, 2019 3:00pm
  • Life

Submitted by The San Juan Island Family Resource Center

The San Juan Island Family Resource Center is excited to announce a new program, the First Generation College Mentoring Program, which will be launched this fall with the start of the 2019-2020 high school season. Working with the help and support of Gordy Waite from Friday Harbor High School, this program will match high school juniors and seniors with a college graduate to provide guidance and mentoring toward a successful transition into higher education. The First Generation College Mentoring Program will also provide group activities, such as touring college campuses in Washington state, and informational sessions for mentees, mentors and family members.

The obstacles that first-generation college students must overcome when entering the college environment are substantial. Multiple studies have shown that financial concerns are an extreme source of stress for FGCS, and most are required to work at least 20 hours a week while attending school. FGCS do not participate in nor attend nearly as many college-related events as nonworking students, which causes distance from inclusiveness and fewer opportunities for building a peer support network. Chronic stress over finances and less intrinsic supports has a significant negative impact on academic success and the completion of a four-year degree. For example, FGCS are 71 percent more likely to leave college in their first year and have reported greater doubt in their ability to succeed in life compared to their multigeneration college student counterparts. Growing up on a rural island also offers unique challenges including the lack of resources to get off-island and visit college campuses in Washington state before leaving for college. The First Generation College Mentoring Program has been designed to help students overcome some of these obstacles.

Researchers are learning much more about FGCS these days, showing that a combination of simple nudges and regular check-ins from mentors can go a long way toward making such students feel confident that they can navigate the strange waters of college academics. The San Juan Island Family Resource Center is currently looking for college graduates who would like to join the program and make a positive impact on a young person’s life. If you are interested in becoming a college mentor, contact Ashley Strutz at the family resource center for more information, call 360-378-5246 or visit