Shippensburg University officially unveiled Students First, a new program geared toward first-generation college students, on Wednesday to a packed room that included students, alumni and administrators.
Rochelle Plummer, the director of Students First, is a first-generation college graduate and spoke about feeling lost and unaware of what she did not know upon entering college. Plummer said she hopes the program will serve as both a guide and a voice for first-generation students at SU.
Sonny Solomon II, executive director for student retention initiatives, said the program will be a central hub of support, guidance and engagement for not only first-generation students, but underrepresented students and Martin Luther King Jr. scholars, among others.
Solomon hopes the Students First Program will help to get rid of preexisting notions about first-generation students.
“First-generation doesn’t mean underprepared. First-generation doesn’t mean not qualified,” she said. “If you made it through the gates of Shippensburg University, you are meant to be here and it’s our job to keep you here.”
“This program will be a great road map for many students that will lead to success,” said Donta Truss, vice president for enrollment management and student success.
A few of the administrators Truss credited with the early work in establishing the program included Chief External Affairs Officer Kim Garris, Chief Equity, Inclusion and Compliance Officer Danny Velez and Dean of Students Donna Gross.
While these administrators were instrumental in the formation of Students First, Truss said, “This was the vision of our president, Dr. Laurie Carter. When she got here, she started talking about the importance of a program such as Students First.”
In a speech, Carter said, “I personally understand how daunting college can seem to first-generation students because I am one.”
Carter explained that the program is an explicit demonstration that the university values the unique gifts and perspectives that first-generation college students bring.
Carter said she hopes that SU will be a university where first-generation students come for their success, and that first-generation students are expected to comprise up to half of next year’s first-time college students at SU.
“It means a lot to me to stand before you today and be able to make a difference in your lives in this new and unique way, because that’s what we do at Ship. We stand with you. We stand for you, because student success is everything to us,” Carter said.