Greg Gabriel’s inspiration to create Gen-One occurred when his student, Susanna, came to him and told him she wanted to go to college. Unfortunately, neither Susanna or her family had any idea of what to do and where to start. Gabriel helped her and her family get the advice and college counseling she needed, and now, she is a freshman with a full scholarship at the University of North Carolina (UNC). Gabriel now helps talented first generation low-income students find a road to and through college through Gen-One.
Currently, Gen-One serves Eastway Middle School, but both Ian Joyce, Executive Director, and Gabriel, hope to expand the program and opportunity for transformative life changes to other schools.
“We are giving first generation low-income students the opportunity to pursue their dreams and change their path in life,” according to Joyce, also a middle school teacher at Eastway. “These kids are born into poverty, and need someone to advocate and intervene for them to change the cycle of poverty they are born into, not just for them, but for their entire family.”
Thanks to Mary Webb, the principal at Eastway, Gabriel was able to gain approval and support from the school to run with this program. As a result, Gen-One has become a CMS pilot program.
When putting together the concept for Gen-One, Gabriel said to Joyce, “If we can help this student, why can’t we be impactful and help others change the course of their lives.”
As a result, 15 students were selected to begin the program this year. The selection process is rigorous. Students are recommended by a teacher in the eighth grade. Teachers consider academic ability, persistence, leadership, and service to others. After students are recommended, they are required to write two essays, undergo an interview, as well as an interview for their parents to ensure they are on board.
“These parents truly do care deeply,” Joyce said. “They are often stereotyped as not caring, when the real issue is they don’t understand the process and bureaucracy since they have not had the opportunity to experience it. This program gives them the opportunity to understand the system and get the support they need to give their children the opportunity to change the path of their life.”
It is an emotional experience, noted Gabriel. Multiple parents have shed tears upon learning that their children were accepted.
The program has three pillars.
- The first: student experiences—cultural opportunities, leadership training, community service and educational visits to colleges.
- The second: providing each student with a mentor, a teacher who can support them through high school with tutoring, advising and advocacy.
- The third: college advising, someone who really works with them and their families, navigating the college application and financial aid process.
“The longer-term impact of this program is a huge part of what is transforming communities,” said Joyce.
After being selected for the program, students are invited to a celebratory induction ceremony. These 15 students and their families fill the school cafeteria, with parents, siblings, cousins, grandparents, and a variety of extended family of all ages.
“The other children attending become filled with hope, and see if they work hard, that college can be an option for them too,” according to Joyce.
Click here to find out more about Gen-One