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The College Achievement Program of Manchester University focused on outreach efforts to first-generation students from nine high schools and their parents and included on-campus overnight events, a mentoring program staffed by first-generation students at the university, a three-day summer program, and a series of six workshops held at the high schools. In 2008–2009, workshop topics included the college selection process, the application process, paying for college, making academic and co-curricular choices, and campus culture. A semi-monthly newsletter for parents was sent during the academic year as a way of encouraging parental support for first-generation students wishing to participate in the university’s outreach offerings.
 
Each September, welcome meetings were held in the university with students, parents, guidance counselors, and the Outreach Coordinator. Students were then invited to an overnight event on campus. Students stayed in the residence halls with a student host, took campus tours, attended a class, ate meals on campus, and participated in communication skills-building activities. This also included vital social and discussion activities with mentors and the Outreach Coordinator.
 
One-on-one assistance included transportation for those who required it. In addition, it included goal setting, time management, study skills-building, and mock interview sessions.
 
After the first year, 13 students participated in an on-campus three-day “College 101” summer program. Workshops were held on a variety of topics aimed at preparing students for future college success.
 
Initially, several high school guidance counselors were reluctant to encourage students to participate in the Manchester program. The program director worked to cultivate strong relationships with the high schools and, as a result, eight of the nine schools continued to participate in the program during the 2009–2010 academic year. To increase the impact of the program, the university made more direct contact with the students through flyers, postcards, and announcements at participating schools. In addition, four more high schools were recruited to participate in the program.
 
In the second year, book incentive awards were presented to 66 first-generation students at Manchester University with a GPA of at least 2.5 in their first year. In addition, $1,000 scholarships were awarded to four students who participated in the Manchester College Achievement Program during the prior year.

 

Program Outcomes

Pre- and post-tests were administered to evaluate the level of student knowledge and understanding of the topics presented as part of each workshop presentation. The results were overwhelmingly positive, reflecting substantial increases in student understanding.
 
Guidance counselors reported that students progressed in their goals and were making more informed choices about college. Informal feedback from student participants also was very positive.
 
Improved admission rates among the targeted campus population resulted, even though the full benefit of the program is likely to be realized in the years ahead. The institution was strengthened by new and stronger relationships with area schools, their leaders, and families.

 

Program Updates

The CIC/Walmart College Success Award enabled Manchester to embark on a focused program to identify and retain first-generation students, called the Manchester College Achievement Program. Although that grant has expired, the university gained the momentum and expertise to plan outreach strategies through the Admissions Office, with workshops as well as pre-tests and post-tests for identified high school students. The hope is to collect and evaluate data from these outreach efforts to help the university improve support of first-generation students as they prepare for college.
 
Campus peer mentors and, of course, mentoring and support from the university’s Success Center will help keep first-generation students on the minds of leaders as these students embark on their Manchester University careers. The Career Services office also is part of the success team.