Centre’s first-generation college students boast high graduation rate success
First-generation college students at Centre College are regarded as high-achievers, distinguished by an extraordinary drive to succeed as they work toward the goal of becoming the first in their family to obtain a college degree. Collectively, the first-generation students from Centre’s Class of 2017 also attained a notable accomplishment, achieving a 90 percent graduation rate, among the highest in the nation.
Sarah Scott, director of the Grissom Scholars Program and coordinator of Centre Scholarship Programs, said the 90 percent graduation rate is “truly remarkable,” particularly given the fact that it’s higher than the College’s Class of 2017 as a whole, and by six percentage points. The College’s first-generation graduation rate has consistently been high, with the rate in 2016 at 89 percent.
According to Scott, the number of first-generation students has increased at Centre over the past four years. Currently, 17 percent of the student body identify as first-generation students—up from 15 percent last year, 12 the previous year and 9 percent the prior year.
Even before graduating, Centre first-generation students are highly involved on campus.
“We have found that first-generation students here hold proportionally more leadership roles on campus than continuous-generation students,” Scott explained.
The Grissom Scholarship Program, one of Centre’s premier scholarships, offers a four-year, full-tuition-plus scholarship to 10 incoming first-year students who are among the first generation in their families to attend college.
“It is extremely helpful that we have the Grissom Scholars Program now, because even if students aren’t in the program, they understand Centre’s commitment to first-generation students, and it sends a message that we want them here,” Scott said. “It’s not just that they’re lucky to be at Centre, it’s that Centre is lucky to have them here.”
Scott believes that one reason why Centre’s first-generation students do so well is because of the support they have on campus.
“We have a lot of faculty members who are first-generation graduates,” Scott added. “They really understand the unique struggles these students sometimes have.”
Ovalle explained how, during her first year at Centre, she connected with a professor who had been a first-generation student.
“We instantly connected and she offered me the opportunity to be a research assistant in her lab starting the summer after my first year and still continuing to this day,” she said. “When it comes to my experience here at Centre, what has stood out to me the most has been the connections I have formed on campus with a variety of individuals.”
Throughout Ovalle’s time at Centre, she’s built several important relationships with her peers, mentors, faculty and staff.
“These connections are what fuel my motivation to keep working, my desire to seek new understandings from all the chaos that is my life,” Ovalle continued.
For Valeria Garcia Lopez ‘19, biochemistry and molecular biology major and residence director, the Grissom Scholars Program was one of her main motivators for coming to Centre.
“The relationship that I have built with my professors has been one of the things that stands out the most of my college experience,” Lopez continued. I knew that Centre is famous for its community aspect, but experiencing it on your own is entirely different and deeply meaningful.”
Visit here to learn more about resources for first-generation college students at Centre.
by Kerry Steinhofer
December 19, 2017