By Ava Galyean
This year, Harding is starting a new program aiming to help first-generation college students. According to the Cannon-Clary College of Education, “an estimated 50 percent of the college population is comprised of people whose parents never attended college.”
Being one of the first people in the family to go to college can present trials and obstacles. So many college students have a family member to relate and turn to when they are feeling stressed. For a first-generation college student, it is not that easy.
Jessica McCumpsey, assistant director for New Student Programs, said the program will communicate to students that they are not alone, and someone will point them in the right direction and offer any resources they need. McCumpsey said even a student who is not first-generation has a huge adjustment anyway.
“Factoring in that there might not be family support or understanding on these questions and concerns or stresses — that’s kind of where this idea was born,” McCumpsey said.
The program partners together first-generation students with a faculty member who was also a first-generation college student in an effort to guide them in the right direction. McCumpsey said the idea of asking for help can be difficult. She feels that this program will help break down the stigma that asking for help makes you weak, because we all need a little help sometimes.
Jana Rucker, vice president for University Communications and Enrollment and first-generation mentor said being the first in her family to go to college was really confusing.
“I didn’t know what to do. I went to a small Christian school where the advisory was limited, so my advisory resources became my friends,” Rucker said. Rucker said she wants to help make sure these students feel like they belong. Rucker’s goal is to make sure these students know where they are going, help them navigate life and college and make sure they dream bigger.
Randy McLeod, professor of business and First-Generation mentor, had to work full-time while being a full-time student to put himself through school. He said he understands the importance and struggle of knowing what you want to do and doing it in just four years. McLeod said he is most looking forward to learning these students stories.
“That’s part of why you’re at Harding. As Bruce would say, ‘We’re a community of mission,’ and part of that mission is knowing your story,” McLeod said.