JB Pritzker, Governor, State of Illinois

2024 First Gen Symposium

On Monday, March 11 at North Central College, we hosted our first annual First Gen Symposium! We thank North Central College for their partnership. We thank all presenters and attendees for joining us and learning how we can all support first generation students.

The First Gen Symposium provided an opportunity for attendees to learn and share best practices for supporting first generation students in postsecondary planning.

Below are PDF copies of the presentations given during the symposium. If you are interested in presenting or attending next year’s First Gen Symposium, sign up for ISAC’s e-Messaging service to receive updates.

For questions, contact isac.outreachtraining@illinois.gov!


Opening Remarks

Join ISAC and North Central College for a warm welcome to the first annual First Gen Symposium where we talk about our why, what it means to be first gen, and give an overview of the First Generation Scholars Network.
Presenters: Beth Groves, ISAC and Sara Espinosa, ISAC

pdf Opening Remarks

Addressing the Financial Capability Needs of First Generation College Students

The Economic Awareness Council provides financial capability programming and leads Bank On Chicago, a banking access coalition. We partnered with the City Colleges of Chicago (CCC) to provide financial literacy workshops, one-on-one mentoring, and saving incentives to a diverse group of CCC students, of whom approximately 82% are first-generation. Join us to learn about the results of these workshops and the materials that have helped these first gen students develop lifelong money management skills.
Presenters: Tracy Frizzell and Moises Sanchez, Economic Awareness Council

pdf Addressing the Financial Capability Needs of First Generation College Students

Building Stronger Support Networks: Engaging Career Professionals to Empower First Generation Students

First-generation students encounter numerous challenges as they pursue their postsecondary goals. To address these obstacles, we believe it is necessary to have dependable "villages" of professionals around these students. Learn practical strategies for engaging career professionals in supporting first gen students. By leveraging the expertise and resources of professionals from various fields, we can enhance the support network available to students.
Presenters: Lauren Hurley, Carolina Rincon, and Zoe Workstel, iMentor

pdf Building Stronger Support Networks Engaging Career Professionals

Cardinal First

Hear from the host of our symposium and Director of First Generation Programs at North Central College, Julie Carballo during lunch. Learn how this nationally recognized program has been built, the ways it has benefitted students, and how it can serve as a model for other institutions to support their first generation population.
Presenter: Julie Carballo, North Central College

pdf Cardinal First

Cardinal First Logistics: How to Plan a First Gen Event

Join North Central College for an in-depth look at logistical planning for many of their Cardinal First events. Learn how the program approaches various topics and events with an emphasis on reaching all undergraduate students regardless of grade level.
Presenter: Marissa Gaigalas, North Central College

pdf Cardinal First Logistics: How to Plan a First Gen Event

Connect College to Career: Discover Proven Strategies for Student Success

In America, we’re promised that hard work and ambition will be met with equality of opportunity. The reality is that we have a quiet crisis on our hands. While education can be a great equalizer, only about 30% of our country’s 1.4 million first generation or low-income college students are predicted to land a strong job after graduation. We will share how innovative partnerships can empower first generation and Pell Grant-eligible students on the path to economic mobility. Leave with tangible ideas on how to help students grow their career readiness skills, networks, and confidence.
Presenters: Amy Cisneros, and Deshauna Carter, Braven

pdf Connect College to Career Discover Proven Strategies for Student Success

Empowering First Generation College Students: Hope Chicago's Approach to Promoting College Persistence

Hope Chicago pledged debt-free college for thousands of families in Chicago's south and west sides, regardless of documentation status. Recognizing that finances were one part of the equation, Hope Chicago crafted innovative strategies for support and college persistence. With 81% of our collegiate cohorts being first-generation, we will delve into the tailored resources implemented by Hope Chicago, including financial assistance, wraparound supports, and parent and community support.
Presenters: Brandis Haugabrook, Michele Howard, and Luis Flores, Hope Chicago

pdf Empowering First Generation College Students Hope Chicago's Approach to Promoting College Persistence

Every Story Matters: Building Community & Culture

It is vital that we learn how to create inclusive cultures within communities where everyone feels like their voices are being heard. We will cover a six-step process on how to build a storytelling culture that connects and inspires all members. We will listen to parts of each other's stories and learn how to mobilize others to share their stories by understanding how to create safe spaces and implementing inclusive storytelling strategies.
Presenter: Richard Reyes, PLUS ME Project

pdf Every Story Matters Building Community and Culture

First Gen Flyers: Empowering Through Community

First generation college students deserve a space that belongs to them. The First Gen Flyers Mentoring Program at Lewis University is a small community of first-generation students who share their experiences, celebrate their accomplishments, and support one another. Through reflection and connections, students build a community that empowers them through their unique journey. Instead of lectures, key information is interwoven through activities, collaboration, and conversations. Creating a space where students can be vulnerable requires building trust by having peer mentors and coordinators share their own challenges and dreams.
Presenter: Stephany D. Renovato Tovar, Lewis University

pdf First Gen Flyers Empowering Through Community

From Cradle to Career: Empowering First Gen Students in STEM and the Health Sciences for Academic Success and Career Advancement

Inequality and underrepresentation of people from historically marginalized communities remains stubbornly persistent in Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, and Health (STEM-H) fields. Learn how the Rush Education and Career Hub (REACH) seeks to increase and broaden STEM-H participation for underrepresented and first gen students. Learn how REACH provides students with engaging STEM learning and activities, while introducing them to healthcare careers and the postsecondary paths that lead to those jobs. Learn promising practices for creating student-centered, community-engaged learning environments built on academic enrichment, career exploration, and the most effective evidence-based teaching, learning, and assessment strategies.
Presenters: Natalia Gallegos and Heather Hampton, Rush University Medical Center

pdf From Cradle to Career Empowering First Gen Students in STEM and the Health Sciences for Academic Success and Career Advancement

From High School to Higher Education: Elevating the Postsecondary Transition Experience

Hear from a panel of professionals and first-generation students who will share their experiences, challenges, and best practices for successful transitions. Learn about strategies taken by college-access professionals and how to develop experiences tailored to their needs. Finally, an interactive activity will allow you to brainstorm ideas for implementing new approaches or enhancing existing programs.
Presenters: Chastinee McNeil, Lativia Samone, and Dezaray Vazquez, Embarc

pdf From High School to Higher Education Elevating the Postsecondary Transition

“I’m First!” Now What?

Learn how to support first gen students from both sides of the desk. High school counselors will share strategies to best collect and analyze data, promote a supportive culture in the school community, curriculum ideas, programming, and how to initiate a partnership with a local college’s first gen program. On the college side, learn how to engage current first gen college students to share their wisdom and experiences with high school students through in-person visit days and virtual workshops.
Presenters: Natalie Rubino and Lisette Ochoa, Glenbard West High School; Julie Carballo, North Central College

pdf I'm First! Now What

ISAC’s First Generation Scholars Network: How You Can Be a Part

ISAC’s First Generation Scholars Network (FGSN) supports and connects first generation college students so they can support each other, connect with ISAC’s FGSN mentors, combat summer melt, and help make their transition to college a whole lot easier and successful. We will highlight events and activities making these student connections and how you can get your students or school involved with the network.
Presenter: Abel Montoya, ISAC

pdf ISAC's First Generation Scholars Network How You Can Be a Part

Overcoming Underemployment: Leveraging First Generation Career Success

500,000 first gen grads are unemployed or underemployed in the year following their graduation, and two thirds of these grads will remain stuck five years later. COOP Careers is an innovative workforce development non-profit, committed to overcoming underemployment by leveraging social capital, technical skills, and peer connections. We will dive into the complexities of underemployment and how COOP is working to support first gen grads in launching upwardly mobile careers.
Presenters: Stephanie Cafaro, Kadeem Fuller, Danny Rivera, Natalia Summers, Anareli Larios, and Samantha Mark, COOP Careers

pdf Overcoming Underemployment: Leveraging First Generation Career Success

Prioritizing Student Support in the “Transition Zone”

The Chicago Roadmap provides targeted support to students in their senior year through the first semester of college. The Chicago Roadmap's target populations include first-generation, Black and Latinx, diverse learners, and Options students. Learn about structures, key learnings, and best practices pertaining to four signature programs of the roadmap that support these students’ transition from high school to postsecondary education.
Presenters: Amanda Wojan and Cassandra Croft, City Colleges of Chicago

pdf Prioritizing Student Support in the Transition Zone – Presentation

pdf Learn about the Chicago Road Map (English)

pdf Learn about the Chicago Road Map (Spanish)

Student-Guided Supports for First Generation College Students

While many professionals in higher education think they understand the unique needs of first gen students, sometimes students know best! Methodist College, a small, private health sciences and nursing college, has taken the approach of developing a student-led committee to guide our faculty and staff to address the most pressing and relevant needs.
Presenter: Leah Jones Schneblin, Methodist College

pdf Student-Guided Supports for First Generation College Students

Students’ Stories: “Nothing About Us, Without Us”

The To&Through Project Student Stories Series, comprised of 25+ in-depth interviews with students of color, first-generation, and students from low-income backgrounds, who share their journey navigating their educational careers. Each student’s story highlights the challenges and triumphs in their journey. We will explore the series’ accompanying resources and learn how we are leveraging these stories to help educators develop stronger empathy and embrace students’ lived experiences.
Presenter: Yessica Guadalupe Vargas, The To&Through Project at the University of Chicago

pdf Student Stories Nothing About Us, Without Us

Supporting First Generation College Students: Community Care that Leads to College Completion

Effective support for first gen students must include strategic plans that prioritize a smooth transition into college combined with continued structured support that results in increased retention and college completion rates. Students thrive when they connect with community care options that foster a sense of belonging on campus. Learn how to use your current campus-wide resources to promote community care and assist students with graduating college.
Presenters: Dr. Karen P. Walker and Jessica Morris, Rockford University

pdf Supporting First Generation College Students Community Care that Leads to College Completion

Welcome, First Gens!

Learn about how the University of Illinois in Urbana - Champaign is supporting first gen students. We have created a landing page with a directory of first gen staff, events, and national resources to make it easier to transition to and graduate from college.
Presenter: Jennifer Mendez, University of Illinois

pdf Welcome, First Gens!

Your Story Matters: Building Confidence & Connections

There are endless benefits to sharing your story, but so many people struggle with knowing where to start or how to effectively do it. Listen to a powerful personal narrative from a first-generation college graduate and learn tools that will help you build and share your own story with confidence to inspire and connect with others.
Presenter: Richard Reyes, PLUS ME Project

pdf Your Story Matters Building Confidence and Connections