The Ford Motor Company Fund, a longtime supporter of education, launched a first-of-its-kind program at Spelman College to improve graduation rates among first-generation students.

Ford First Gen at Spelman College will provide students a range of personal and professional services and support to help them succeed throughout their four years in college, according to Ford.

The program is the latest in the Ford Fund’s decades-long commitment to supporting historically Black colleges and universities and students that attend them.

“Spelman College counts among some of its most distinguished alumnae many first-generation graduates, including Starbucks COO and Spelman Board Chair Rosalind Brewer,” said Spelman President Mary Schmidt Campbell. “Ford Motor Company’s partnership with us in the Ford First Gen program brings a comprehensive, innovative and collaborative approach that exemplifies an important part of ‘the Spelman Promise’ — ensuring that every Spelmanite graduates with a competitive edge.”

Elements of the Ford First Gen include: peer mentoring, biweekly seminars focused on career development, artistic engagement, healthy relationships, monthly excursions and Ford-sponsored summer internship opportunities.

According to a 2012 study by the National Center for Education Statistics, 34 percent of the nation’s undergraduates were the first in their families to go to college.

Spelman’s first-generation population is 15 percent, or 317 students.

Research finds that first-generation students typically arrive at college with a myriad of challenges such as financial instability, lack of self-esteem and lack of adequate family support. They are also at a greater risk of dropping out if they do not receive the support needed to earn a degree.

A 2011 Stanford University study revealed that students who took part in mentoring and coaching services were 10 to 15 percent more likely to advance in college.

“Ford First Gen is a unique approach to helping break down barriers to success that are sometimes faced by first-generation students,” said Pamela Alexander, Ford Motor Company Fund director of community development. “We are very excited about the opportunity we have to impact students’ lives through the mentorship, education, and cultural experiences that Ford First Gen will offer, and given Spelman’s rich legacy of success, we could not ask for a better partner for this program.”

Sarafina Wright –Washington Informer Staff Writer

Sarafina Wright is a staff writer at the Washington Informer where she covers business, community events, education, health and politics. She also serves as the editor-in-chief of the WI Bridge, the Informer’s...

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