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Roadtrip Nation and the College Board Team Up for First-Gen Road Trip

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Martha C. Avila
After graduating from The University of Texas at San Antonio, I was hired by a TRIO organization (Project STAY) where I received intensive training to help me encourage and guide first-generation college-bound students living in economically disadvantaged areas of San Antonio. The work was very fulfilling and, to this day, I sometimes receive emails from past students who have gone on to complete a bachelor's, master's, and now working of a PhD. A few years ago I moved to San Angelo, Texas. A friend mentioned to school district leaders about the work I did in San Antonio, Shortly, I was contacted and hired to serve the same type of target group at the two high schools. I did this for five years. However, the grant that covered my salary expired and no money was available to continue to services to these students. Helping first-generation students is more intricate than just posting a reminder by email about upcoming deadlines--SAT/ACT tests; admissions applications; and the dreaded FAFSA. Many of these students do not know they have the potential (aside from grades) nor the hope of funding their education. Many of my former students did not know that they qualified for test waivers, which in turn qualified them for admissions waivers. Since I had access to very confidential lists, I was knew ahead of time which students qualified for the waivers. They were often surprised to know these were at their disposal. They developed HOPE, and it was then that the firm, constant, and thorough guidance began. Counselors often asked how I was able to get parents to release income tax and other income documents to complete FAFSAs. I told them, "You first have to develop a close relationship with the students and their parents." Today, students are falling through the cracks. No one cares. I know this because I have met parents who mention that their student never received complete information. For example, one student receives Social Security benefits due to her father's disability. She did not know that this situation would have placed her in an income bracket that may have assured her full Pell Grant and other state grants. To many students, Social Security benefits seem very large amounts and they do not think they will receive financial aid. I pray your initiatives to help first-generation college-bound students is successful. Still, the key is to create programs consisting of dedicated, passionate and compassionate persons whose job is more than just a step in the career ladder. Persons who go the extra mile to insure that these students meet their goals regarding college planning. Martha C. Avila

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