In any given classroom at North Central College, it’s likely that several students are the first in their immediate families to pursue higher education. About 35 to 40 percent are first-generation college students—meaning, their parents do not have four-year degrees. And many of their professors were first-generation college students, too.
North Central’s Cardinal First program is dedicated to establishing community, providing support and connecting students with campus resources and these professors. The first Friday of every month, Julie Carballo, director of first-generation programs, organizes interactive programs as part of “Cardinal First Fridays,” like “Building a Winning Résumé.”
“The program is designed to help students thrive while they’re at North Central,” says Carballo. “We want them to start thinking early about different opportunities and view their status as a source of strength and a point of pride.”
More than 50 first-generation faculty advise, mentor and participate in the monthly workshops with inspirational talks. For example, Brandon Sheridan, assistant professor of economics, tells students about the importance of undergraduate research and the Richter Grant program.
Junior and senior Cardinal First ambassadors guide the group activities and act as a point of reference for first-year students. These roles facilitate peer mentoring and provide valuable leadership experience.
Class of 2019 students who participate in the year-long program are eligible to receive a $500 sophomore scholarship.
“Cardinal First gave me a support group I didn’t know I needed,” says Adrianna Martinez ’19. “It kept me engaged and reminded me why I’m at college and that I’m not alone.”
“I enjoy Cardinal First because it’s a place where I feel comfortable,” says Emmanuel Chavez-Ortega ’19. “I’ve had a smooth transition to college from high school.”
During summer orientation, Carballo institutes programming for parents as well, because they may be less familiar with the terminology of higher education. “Cardinal First levels the playing field between first-generation families and the campus community,” she adds.
By: Lauren Baltas '16
“The program is designed to help students thrive while they're at North Central. We want them to start thinking early about different opportunities and view their status as a source of strength and a point of pride in their education”
Julie Carballo, director of first-generation programs