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Georgia Southern to celebrate first-generation college students, faculty, staff week of Nov. 5

First-generation college student and biology major Demetrius Hurst

Throughout the week of Nov. 5, Georgia Southern University will celebrate the experiences of first-generation college faculty, staff and students like Maya Allen, a graphic design major from East Atlanta who overcame challenges to become the first in her family to attend college.

Georgia Southern’s TRiO Support Services program, comprised of federal outreach and student initiatives designed to identify and provide services for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds, will host a resource fair and a range of interactive events on the Statesboro, Armstrong and Liberty campuses to share powerful stories like Allen’s.

Allen, whose single mother struggled to provide for her family throughout her childhood, initially had a difficult time adjusting to the multiple facets of college life as a student on the Statesboro Campus and almost failed out.

“My freshman year, I didn’t see myself as a college graduate because no one else in my family was,” said Allen. “Then there comes a breaking point, and mine was watching my GPA drop below a 2.0. Suddenly the thought of not being here was scary.”

Re-focused and determined, Allen created her own path to success with the help of TRiO, which is funded by a Department of Education federal grant and provides advising, tutoring and mentoring for students who need assistance. Today, she is an accomplished student who serves as the Georgia Southern Residence Hall Association Vice President of Communications and Public Relations, and volunteers for local organizations like the Statesboro Soup Kitchen.

“My college degree is a ticket to living,” said Allen. “I want to be able to provide for my family and give my future family what I didn’t have.”

Nov. 8 is National First-Generation College Student Day and marks the 53rd anniversary of the signing of the 1965 Higher Education Act, which has helped millions of disadvantaged students like Allen become the first members of their families to earn college degrees.

“National First-Generation College Day celebrates these students and the legislation which has helped to increase their opportunity and attainment for more than 50 years,” said Georgia Southern Interim President Shelley C. Nickel. “Georgia Southern University is proud to host TRiO programs, and we are happy to celebrate the history of these important student initiatives.”

According to the Center for First-Generation Student Success, first-generation students make up a third of all college students. Yet, only 27 percent of them will earn their degrees within four years—markedly lagging behind their continuing generation peers. Notably, engaged communities like TRiO build strong foundations for successful first-generation students.

Demetrius Hurst, an Armstrong Campus biology major and TRiO student from Waycross, Georgia, knows the importance of TRiO first-hand.

“It is very important for me to be the first in my family to attend college because I can be that role model that will break the cycle of the refusal to pursue higher education,” said Hurst. “I also want to encourage and empower the youth in my hometown to attend college.”

Like Allen, Hurst initially floundered with managing a college workload, study habits and lifestyle. However, after engaging with TRiO, he began to excel. Today, he is a member of the TRiO Student Leadership Advisory Council, honors program, Pre-Medicine Club, Institute for Healthcare Improvement Student Chapter, Political Action Committee of Savannah NAACP and South Atlantic Medical Association of Savannah. Hurst is also vice president of Collegiate 100, an organization that provides mentorship to Savannah’s youth who lack positive role models, and donates time to community service projects with The Salvation Army and Treasure Savannah, among others.

“College is an opportunity to do what I’ve always wanted, which is to become the best physician’s assistant that I can be,” he noted. “I also want to participate in outreach programs and even start one of my own for youth minority who want to pursue medicine.” 

For more information on Georgia Southern’s National First-Generation Day celebration or TRiO Student Support Services, visit https://students.georgiasouthern.edu/triosss/.

Georgia Southern University, a public Carnegie Doctoral/Research institution founded in 1906, offers 141 degree programs serving more than 27,000 students through nine colleges on three campuses in Statesboro, Savannah, Hinesville and online instruction. A leader in higher education in southeast Georgia, the University provides a diverse student population with expert faculty, world-class scholarship and hands-on learning opportunities. Georgia Southern creates lifelong learners who serve as responsible scholars, leaders and stewards in their communities. Visit GeorgiaSouthern.edu.

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