UC program helps first generation students with college experience

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Freshman year in college can be tough. The transition from high school to college can be tricky. If your parents didn't go to college, it's trickier. They are four times as likely to drop out within a year.

Bob Suess is the Program Director for the Gen-1 Theme House at the University of Cincinnati. He knows about the chances first generation students can face.

"If you are a first generation student, Pell eligible (meaning economically disadvantaged), you commute and you work more than 20 hours a week, that's the kiss of death. You have virtually no chance of completing a college degree within six years," said Suess.

The Gen-1 Theme House increases those chances dramatically. For three years now, it has been a safe house for first generation students; guiding them through their first year.

"First generation students don't know what they don't know.  People can't afford either by time or money to have an extended period of time where they finally learn where everything is," said Judy Mause, a 30-year veteran of Cincinnati Public Schools.

Mause says if students complete their freshman year successfully, their chances of getting a degree go up dramatically, adding, "Often times students end up wasting a lot of time…trying to find their way. That time and energy is then lost on their academics and their academic performance."

Jada Lysche is a UC Freshman and a member of the Gen-1 House. She said, "It is a new experience for all of us. If you're coming in and you don't know anything about college, if your family didn't go to college, it's tough to get into the mode of getting ready for college. Living here really guides you in a positive path in order to make it to the next level."

Jada, who's from Avondale, made it to the next level. She earned a 3.1 her first quarter, and 3.75 last quarter.

"I studied for weeks and weeks went to math help sessions.  Talk to the teacher to try and get extra help with it and I passed that test with a 'B' and that got me to an 'A' in his class, I was just excited…I looked at my grades and made Dean's List. It was the like the best experience ever."

For the 24 students who live in the Gen-1 House, they not only get help academically, they get help socially. It connects them to each other.

"It feels like family because everybody is close.  Last year a couple of people like this might not be for me and we stuck it out.  We are like you can't go because I need you just as much as you need me," said UC Sophomore Tracy Steagall.

"This is truly a gift.  This is the next generation.  These students are so talented.  It is critical that we work with them not only to encourage them to bring their best self but to discover who that next best self is going to be," said Jada.

The Gen-1 House for freshman has been so successful, next year UC is opening a Gen-1 house for sophomores. Students who finish their 2nd year successfully, they have an even greater chance of earning their college degrees.

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