By Erika Neldner
Reinhardt University is a choice school for first-generation college students because of the strong support system to help them navigate their way. This week, Reinhardt celebrates its nearly 300 students currently studying as first-generation college students.
In 2017, The Council for Opportunity for Education, in partnership with the Center for First-Generation Student Success – an initiative of NASPA and the Suder Foundation, celebrated the inaugural First-Generation College Celebration Nov. 8 on Capitol Hill. Nov. 8 marks the 54th anniversary of the signing of the 1965 Higher Education Act, which helped millions of first-generation, low-income/under-resourced students persist to degree completion.
“We would like to thank our First-Gens for contributing to strengthening our campus community,” said Dean of Students Walter May. “We are glad our first-generation students chose RU. There are so many resources here at Reinhardt for all students, and we understand for a student who is the first in their family to attend college, it may be difficult to know what to do and where to go. All they need to do is reach out to a faculty or staff member, and our Reinhardt team can show them the way.”
Two of Reinhardt’s first-generation students come from the same family. Ivey Gangi and her brother, Anthony, have shown they can thrive at Reinhardt.
“Being a first-generation student is definitely a challenge because no one understands what is being expected and what different challenges are being thrown your way. I had to figure everything out for myself,” Ivey said. “However, being involved and forming relationships with people around campus made it easier to adjust to. Having the activities and the Housing and Residential Education staff there to help made the transition easier. All staff on campus have been a major help during my time here at Reinhardt, and I have never felt as if I don’t have anyone to turn to in a time of need.”
Ivey, a senior education major, has really found a place on campus in the Price School of Education, on the Eagles cheer squad and as a captain for Reinhardt Admissions.
Her brother, Anthony, shares her sentiments of the support he has found at RU. While he thought going to college with his sister would “be weird,” he has found it to be quite the opposite. “When it comes to the classroom, the professors already have an idea of who I am because of my sister,” said Anthony, a sophomore sport studies/administration major.
From academic advisors to the Student Health Center, student affairs staff and career services, Reinhardt is ready to support all students with what they need. There is a plethora of resources available no matter what students may face. The financial aid team can help find scholarships or funding sources for tuition and payment, the Business Office sets students up with payment plans, the Student Affairs team can guide students to organizations that help them find their place on campus. Students can learn more about resources at https://www.reinhardt.edu/student-life/student-services-resources.
Maria Flores Blackburn ’15 found that the resources at Reinhardt calmed her fears and taught her how to make the most out of her college career.
“Reinhardt University provided many tools that I was able to use to get involved and develop my leadership skills, giving back to the community and university, and also discover what I’m passionate about and ultimately find a career path to pursue,” said Blackburn, adding staff helped her with leadership development in her roles as SGA Treasurer and Student Body President. “Thanks to the community that Reinhardt has developed, I had tools and support to succeed as a first-generation college student, and I am now thriving as a tax accountant for Southern Company, a Fortune 200 company.”
Being a first-generation student does not have to be scary – it can be a time of learning, development and success.
“Although being a first-generation student is challenging, it is so rewarding knowing that I was able to do this. Knowing that I have now set a standard in my family and being a positive role model to siblings is the biggest reward of them all,” she added.