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The Pioneer Spirit: Pioneer Scholars Program Supports First-Generation Freshmen

As it begins its seventh year, the Pioneer Scholars program continues to succeed in providing necessary support for first-generation freshmen. Of the nearly 670 registered freshmen for 2014-15, about 262 are first-generation students. All first-generation students are assigned a peer mentor (upperclassman first-generation student) who works with them throughout the year.

If your student is first-generation, meaning that his or her generation is the first in your family to attend college, and he or she has not mentioned “Pioneers,” have him or her contact Lindsey Peetz-Murray to sign up. 

About Pioneers  

Pioneer Scholars was designed to provide additional support and guidance for first-generation students, who may be confronted with, and perhaps intimidated by, educational, emotional, social and financial struggles particular to the first-generation experience.  

The program, run through the Academic Resource Center and co-directed by Lindsey Peetz-Murray and Amy Siegel, is comprised of a wealth of events scheduled exclusively to appeal to these students. At the start of the year, students are assigned small groups led by peer mentors. The peer mentors, a trained and dedicated group of students, make weekly contact with their group members in some way. In some instances all Pioneers and mentors gather for organized activities (like the Welcome Party, Faculty and Staff First-generation Panel, Registration and finals preparation, and the Alumni Luncheon); at other times, small groups meet individually for activities planned by their peer mentor.  

Statistics of Pioneer Scholars prove that it works: actively participating Pioneer Scholars had a higher average GPA than those first-generation students who did not participate in the program. A higher percentage of active Pioneers returned for their sophomore year versus those who did not participate. In addition, many past Pioneer Scholars return to the program as peer mentors. The most important factor, student response, has been overwhelmingly positive. As Kandice Ford puts it: “I understand how important it is to be connected. I learned a lot from my peer mentor and from being a member of Pioneer Scholars this year, and I hope to be able to pass on my knowledge and experience to others.”

Lindsey Peetz-Murray
Co-Director of Pioneer Scholars

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