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Spelman College is the launching pad for a first-of-its kind program to improve graduation rates among first-generation students by Ford Motor Company Fund. Ford First Gen @ Spelman College is an innovative program that will give  students access to a range of personal and professional services and support to help them succeed throughout their four years in college.

The program is the latest in the Ford Fund’s decades-long commitment to supporting historically Black colleges and universities and students that attend them, and is centered around enhancing Spelman’s students success efforts by pairing a cohort of 50 first-generation, first-year students with 10 rising juniors – also first-generation students – who will serve as peer mentors.

Students will also have bi-weekly seminars focused on career development, artistic engagement, healthy relationships and envisioning your future; monthly excursions within and outside of metro-Atlanta for students to speak directly with industry professionals; engagements with Spelman faculty from various disciplines; and Ford-sponsored summer internship opportunities, where solving real world problems will prepare them to meet the needs of an ever-changing world.

Spelman College counts among some of its most distinguished alumnae many first-generation graduates, including Starbucks COO and Spelman Board Chair Rosalind Brewer,” said Spelman President Mary Schmidt Campbell, Ph.D. “Ford Motor Company’s partnership with us in the Ford First Gen program brings a comprehensive, innovative and collaborative approach that exemplifies an important part of ‘the Spelman Promise’ – ensuring that every Spelmanite graduates with a competitive edge.”

According to a 2012 study by the National Center for Education Statistics, 34 percent of the nation’s undergraduates were the first in their families to go to college. Spelman’s first-generation population is 15 percent (317 students). Research finds that first-generation students typically arrive at college with a myriad of challenges such as financial instability, lack of self-esteem, and lack of adequate family support. First-generation students are at a greater risk of dropping out if they do not receive the support needed to earn a degree. A 2011 Stanford University study revealed that students who took part in mentoring and coaching services were 10 to 15 percent more likely to advance in college.

“Ford First Gen is a unique approach to helping break down barriers to success that are sometimes faced by first-generation students,” said Pamela Alexander, director, Community Development, Ford Motor Company Fund. “We are very excited about the opportunity we have to impact students’ lives through the mentorship, education, and cultural experiences that Ford First Gen will offer, and given Spelman’s rich legacy of success, we could not ask for a better partner for this program.”

To encourage continuous engagement and bonding between the mentees, mentors, and college faculty, the first-year cohort of Ford First Gen students will interact together in living and learning environments for their entire four years at Spelman. Upon completion of their sophomore year, participating students will have the opportunity to become program mentors, gaining additional and valuable leadership experience as they guide a new cohort of incoming first-generation first-year students. Ford Fund provides each junior mentor with a $10,000 scholarship, as well as the opportunity to themselves be mentored by a Ford Motor Company professional.

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