PAC Bridges Gap for First-Gen Students

Brenda Scott speaks to a group of first generation students during a Penguin Ally Collective meeting. Photo by Tina Kalentis/Jambar Contributor

By Brandon Brown
Jambar Contributor

Starting college can be difficult for any incoming freshman student at Youngstown State University, but being a first-generation student of color can be particularly difficult. 

That’s where the Penguin Ally Collective steps in.

PAC links first-generation students of color with mentors during their freshman year. 

First-generation students are students whose parents have not attended college. Mentors stay in touch with the new students for the entire year to guide them on the track to success. 

Brenda Scott, coordinator of the transition and mentoring program in First Year Student Services, works to ensure students’ transition to university life goes smoothly. 

“As soon as first-generation students of color come in, we want to get them the support of being connected with a mentor, and having that support on campus is crucial to their success,” Scott said.

Brenda Scott works closely with first-generation students to create a smooth transition to university life. Photo by Tina Kalenits/Jambar Contributor

Monthly ally circle meetings give these students an opportunity to gather and listen to guest speakers who give insight and information about how to be a successful student while they are in college.

The monthly meetings also offer a common group of people to connect with. 

Briana Poindexter, freshman political science major, is a new member of PAC.

“It’s such a big support system, especially being far from home. It’s so easy to get discouraged and doubt yourself as a first-year student, so Brenda and PAC definitely help so much,” Poindexter said.

Scott said first-year students and particularly first-generation students could find tasks such as going to office hours, making advising appointments and talking with faculty challenging. 

With mentors and support through the collective, students learn how to do these important tasks.

Another program offered to first-generation students of color is the Navarro Executive Fellows Program. 

This program pairs freshman students of color with executive and administrative leaders so they can gain experience working in a professional environment.

Jorge Vega Santos, a senior early childhood education major, is a member of the Navarro Executive Fellows Program.

Brenda Scott speaks to a group of first-generation students during a Penguin Ally Collective meeting. Photo by Tina Kalenits/Jambar Contributor

Santos said professional mentors were critical to his success at YSU and helped him use campus resources and meet people.

The Summer Bridge Program introduces students and parents to the new atmosphere of a college campus before the fall semester starts.

The program explains housing, food plans, tutoring, scheduling, admissions and purchasing books.

Scott hopes these programs continue to attract first-generation students of color and gain more support across campus. 

“This isn’t strictly a first-year student issue; it’s an issue across campus. So collaboration with all departments across campus is crucial,” Scott said. “All departments are on board with helping these students succeed.”

Scott hopes the program continues to grow and can move outside the Office of First Year Experience into its own center. 

Scott thinks a physical site for the program would grow student involvement. 

For more information on PAC or programs for first-generation students of color, visit Scott in the Office of First Year Student Services in Jones Hall or contact her by email at [email protected].