WUOMFM

first generation

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

We first told you about Ireana Bernal in our documentary, College Material. Today's story is an update

This is a story of a dream on the verge of coming true and of what comes after.

It’s a story of a young woman in Holland, about to start her first semester of college.

I first met Ireana Bernal about a year ago. She was just starting her senior year in high school. Her high school years started out rough, but she’d been trying to turn it around. She still wasn’t sure how it would turn out. But the people around her all believed in her. People like her counselor, Mitch Veldkamp.

"She has this self will," Veldvamp told me. "Something in her that’s a little fire that started," he said.

That little fire grew all last year, as Bernal applied for college. 

It’s been months since I’d talked to Bernal. We met at a coffee shop in downtown Holland, right across the street from Hope College.

This is where she will be starting school next week.

In light of yesterday's State of Opportunity story, I thought it might be fun to share this New York Times article where former college freshmen give advice to incoming freshmen. The tips range from academic (where to find the best YouTube math and chemistry tutors), to personal hygiene (when you're stuck, take a shower), to study tips (always make an outline for a paper). What advice would you give to someone about to start college?

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

If you graduated high school in June and college doesn’t start until fall, probably homework is the last thing on your mind during summer. But for some recent high school graduates, the summer before college is filled with homework, study groups and workshops.

That's how Chelsie Thompson's summer is shaping up. Thompson is 18 years old and she insists everyone (including reporters) call her "Phancie." She’s from Melvindale, a small, working-class city just outside Detroit, and she's spending seven weeks of her summer on the campus of the University of Michigan, taking three college courses for credit and learning her way around the university. 

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

We've talked a lot about what it's like to be a first generation student at the University of Michigan, and what it's like to be a first generation student at Grand Valley State University. Now let's take a look at what it's like to be one at Michigan State University.

This is a story from last year, but it's one that has particular relevance for me now as I delve into stories about first generation college students. In this article, Paul Tough talks about what the University of Texas at Austin is doing to retain first generation, low-income students. It's a long article, but I urge you to read the whole thing. Especially the part about the videos these students have to watch when they get to campus; the videos convey "a simple message about belonging," but they make a huge impact on the students' success.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Chris Reynolds will never forget his first day on campus at the University of Michigan. He and his dad had gotten up super early to drive the nine hours from Sellersville, Pennsylvania to Ann Arbor.

"My father literally just dropped me off and then left," says Reynolds. His dad couldn’t afford a hotel, so they took about an hour to unpack the car, said their goodbyes, and his dad drove off.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

 

Mark Jackson settles into his chair, and takes a sip of coffee. He’s been in interviews all morning, meeting with high school students and parents interested in enrolling at Wayne State University through the APEX program, which Jackson oversees.

Jackson tells me he’s worked in college academic advising for 35 “some-odd” years, at six different institutions.

And he loves the work.

“You know, we’re helping change the world here,” he says. “People think I say that tongue-in-cheek. No, I’ve seen it happen.”

 Jackson begins to tell me a story of a student he met in Chicago years ago.