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After collecting data about the experiences of current first-generation students and discussing those results in a variety of forums, Lesley University used its CIC/Walmart College Success Award to launch a number of initiatives to improve outreach to first-generation college students in area middle schools and high schools during the 2008–2009 academic year. The First-to-Lesley Fellows (F2LF) program was established for current first-generation students at Lesley who received stipends ($500–$750) to assist with outreach events for first-generation students currently attending local community colleges. Fellows met to discuss their own experiences and expectations as well as ways the university might better support the academic success of first-generation students. In addition, the CIC/Walmart Award made it possible for the university to expand the reach of its Urban and Community College Scholarship program.
 
Prior to the CIC/Walmart Award program, scholarships of $8,000 were offered to students graduating from high schools in Boston, Cambridge, Chelsea, and Somerville. As of spring 2009, first-generation graduates from all Massachusetts community colleges also became eligible and received a $13,000 scholarship.
 
In the second year of the program, an opening dinner for Fellows was held, and they were matched with incoming first-generation students. These new students were invited to a Student Life and Campus Resources night that included a dinner and introduction to various student services, such as the Center for Academic Achievement and Counseling Center.
 
Later in the semester a dinner/discussion was held to explore with first-generation students the challenges they faced—345 first-generation students were invited and 15 attended. The program also sponsored a financial literacy workshop for students and an end-of-year dinner.
 
In addition, Fellows participated in admission open houses and hosted prospective students overnight in their residence halls.


Program Outcomes

A cadre of 15 Fellows was selected and scholarship availability was expanded to community colleges and area schools. The program achieved improved admission rates among the targeted campus population (community college first-generation students). Although enrollment of first-generation students increased, success with the programmatic elements was more challenging because it proved difficult to find meeting times when many students could attend events.
 
Most important, the larger campus community was made much more aware of first-generation students and the challenges these students face. Also, relationships with area community colleges were enhanced. Thus, the institution was strengthened by the experience of the CIC/Walmart College Success Award.


Program Updates

The decision was made to place more emphasis in the future on retention and support than on recruitment. In year three, a welcoming reception was held for first-generation students and their families during the fall check-in process. A first-generation student organization was formed, and peer and faculty mentor programming was piloted.