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Ford First Gen @ Spelman College Program Promotes Better Graduation Rates

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Ford First Gen Spelman College

Ford Motor Company Fund in August launched a new program at Spelman College aimed at increasing the graduation rates for first-generation university students. Ford First Gen @ Spelman College provides those students with a wide range of support and services to better ensure that they get through all four years at the university and come away at the end with a degree. This includes mentorship and internship opportunities.

“Spelman College counts among some of its most distinguished alumnae many first-generation graduates, including Starbucks COO and Spelman Board Chair Rosalind Brewer,” said Spelman President Mary Schmidt Campbell, Ph.D. “Ford Motor Company’s partnership with us in the Ford First Gen program brings a comprehensive, innovative and collaborative approach that exemplifies an important part of ‘the Spelman Promise’ — ensuring that every Spelmanite graduates with a competitive edge.”

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The program pairs 50 first-generation freshmen students with 10 first-generation juniors who will serve as mentors. The mentors are tasked with spending 10 hours a week with each of their assigned mentees to ensure that they are adapting to the pressures and expectations of attending university. The juniors are rewarded for their efforts with a $10,000 scholarship and the chance to be mentored by someone from Ford.

Currently, 15 percent of Spelman’s student body are first-generation students, and studies have shown that those students are at a greater risk of dropping out. A Stanford study from 2011, conversely, shows that students who receive mentoring or coaching are 10-15 percent more likely to graduate.

Additional components of the program include bi-weekly seminars, monthly excursions, direct engagement with Spelman faculty members, and summer internship opportunities through Ford.

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