Valencia Foundation has launched a fund-raising effort to help first-generation, low-income students pursue a college education. The “First One” campaign takes advantage of Florida’s First Generation Matching Grant Program that maximizes state dollars for students through a dollar-for-dollar match of private contributions. During the 2011-12 school year, more than 29,000 Valencia students were the first in their families to go to college.
“For first-generation students, a college degree not only transforms their lives, but alters the trajectory of their families for generations to come,” said Geraldine Gallagher, Foundation president and CEO.
The campaign, which lasts from July 1 to August 9, seeks to raise $100,000 in private donations with a $100,000 state match. Students who qualify will be eligible for a scholarship of up to $2,000 to help offset the costs associated with college, including tuition, books and supplies, that cannot always be met with state or federal aid alone.
At a kick-off event held yesterday, first-generation student Donald Gibson, 31, told the crowd assembled that he was the first person in his family to graduate from high school, not just college. After graduating from Poinciana High in 2000, he spent five years in the military and later enrolled in college.
“I got my first-generation scholarship right as my GI Bill was running out. If it weren’t for that, I probably would have had to drop out my last semester,” Gibson said.
Finances are just one of the obstacles many first-generation students face. Joyce Romano, Valencia’s vice president of Student Affairs, shared the story of a student she met who drove to Valencia’s Osceola Campus six times before she could muster the courage to get out of her car, go inside the building and apply.
Romano herself was the first in her family to go to college. “I didn’t think of law school. I didn’t think of being a doctor. I didn’t think of owning a business. I didn’t think people like me did such a thing,” she said. “That’s another restraint for people who are first-generation: they don’t know what things are possible.”
The First One campaign makes use of social media and peer-to-peer outreach and invites others to share how they were the first one to do “something.”
The First Generation Matching Grant Program (FGMG) is a need-based grant program available to degree-seeking, resident, undergraduate students who demonstrate substantial financial need, are enrolled at Valencia College, and whose parents have not earned baccalaureate or higher degrees.
Available state funds are contingent upon matching contributions from private sources on a one to one dollar basis.