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JOHN ENAMAIT COLUMN: My advice for first-generation college students

Community colleges are uniquely positioned to help a vast array of students.
One of those categories is first-generation college students. According to the U.S. Department of Education, “first-generation college students are students who enrolled in postsecondary education and whose parents do not have any postsecondary education experience.”

This classification places the student at a disadvantage compared to students whose parents graduated from college. First-generation college students often lack a support system that can answer the multitude of questions that arise when applying/attending college.

I recently spoke to Stanly Community College University Transfer student Kellyn Cortez-Munoz who reinforced this idea.

Kellyn is a first-generation college student from Albemarle. She said her parents were very supportive of her attending college, but did not understand the process. She credits several sources for being helpful with her college experience.

First, her older sister attended SCC and was able to give her advice related to many college topics, including financial aid.

Next, her program advisor, Claudia Gresham, helped her stay on track and was instrumental in helping her schedule the correct sequence of classes.

Finally, Leigh Stewart, SCC’s school of transfer counselor, was a positive influence on Kellyn by encouraging her to continue searching for a career.

Kellyn is scheduled to graduate this spring with an Associate in Science degree. Kellyn plans on continuing her education by pursuing a bachelor’s degree and hopes to eventually become an actuary.

I understand the obstacles Kellyn faced because I was a first-generation college student. I have often said, if it were not for the faculty at the community college I attended, my life would have turned out very differently.

This positive impact is why our faculty and staff are such a vital resource to many of our first-generation college students. We are here to answer the questions students may have.

My advice to all students is to use the college resources that are available.

I want to share a few of those resources with you here:

• First, apply for financial aid by completing and submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Financial Aid includes free financial assistance with the costs of college.

Almost half of our students currently receive Pell Grant assistance. Pell Grants are federal grants for qualifying students and do not have to be repaid. For more information about our Financial Aid Department visit www.stanly.edu/future-students/financial-aid. On our Financial Aid page, students will find answers to questions about the FAFSA application, scholarships, veterans affairs and more.

• Get involved with the many different clubs available at SCC. Students who immerse themselves in college activities and find peers or mentors tend to be more successful.

A listing of the various student clubs on campus can be found by visiting www.stanly.edu/current-students/student-activities/student-clubs.

• Do not hesitate to reach out to our faculty, success coaches or counselors for assistance. For a full listing of our current Success Coaches visit www.stanly.edu/current-students/advising.

• I encourage you to take advantage of our Academic Support Center.
In our ASC, students can obtain free tutoring, access to computers, a quiet study area, study skills, and test tips.

For more details about our ASC visit www.stanly.edu/current-students/academic-support-center.

• Lastly, I encourage you to utilize our Learning Resource Center. The LRC is not just a library but a valuable resource to study, utilize electronic resources, ask questions, or to find the latest book/movie.

Visit our Learning Resource Center online at www.stanly.edu/library.

The most significant advice I can offer to students is to not be afraid to ask for help. Student success is our top priority, but we cannot help students if they do not reach out.

SCC’s faculty and staff are passionate about helping our students overcome all obstacles to become successful.

I am proud of the hard work they do and thankful I can count on them as part of our team.

Dr. John Enamait is president of Stanly Community College.