Alicia Shrestha, First Scholars Program Coordinator, 509-335-3167, Saldivar@wsu.edu
Steve Nakata, Manager of Communications, Student Affairs & Enrollment, 509-335-1774, firstname.lastname@example.org
By Steve Nakata, Office of Student Affairs and Enrollment
First Scholars Program selects inaugural class of students
Berenice Aballi, Sunnyside, Wash., is a member of WSU’s first cohort for the First Scholars Program.
PULLMAN, Wash. - Twenty students from across Washington have been selected to become part of Washington State University’s inaugural class of students participating in the First Scholars Program.
The First Scholars program specializes in providing support for low-income and first-generation college students — those whose parents have no education beyond high school.
According to Alicia Shrestha, First Scholars program coordinator, interest in the program among high school students was overwhelming as nearly 300 students applied to get in.
"We had the highest application rate of any of the affiliate university’s with First Scholars Programs,” said Shrestha. "I’m really proud of that.”
The applicant pool was generated through a combination of outreach efforts including high school visits, specialized marketing, and phone calls to students.
The 20 selected students went through a rigorous screening process established by the Suder Foundation — the agency funding WSU’s First Scholars Program. Not only did they have to meet certain academic requirements, they also were assessed on such things as educational commitment, academic self-confidence, social comfort and resiliency.
Many of the students hail from rural communities such as Sunnyside, Kalama, Othello, Manson, Toppenish, Selah, Goldendale and Brewster. Others come from Chelan, Federal Way, Yakima, Lake Stevens, Snohomish, Medical Lake, Kettle Falls, East Wenatchee and Renton.
Last year the Suder Foundation announced it was awarding WSU’s Office of Student Affairs and Enrollment $860,000 over five years to establish the program that provides students with high-touch mentoring, individualized tutoring and scholarship support. Program participants receive a $5,000 scholarship annually.
"I called each student personally to let them know they were selected to be part of our first class,” said Shrestha. "It took a lot of work to get to this point in the selection process and I’m really excited to meet them when they arrive for orientation.”
Sunnyside High School senior Berenice Aballi is one of the students who received Shrestha’s call.
"I was really surprised and I’m looking forward to being in this program,” said Abailli. "I’m in a position where my parents can’t help me a lot with school and First Scholars will connect me with lots of people who can help me succeed at WSU.”
According to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, only 36 percent of first-generation students complete a bachelor’s degree within six years of enrollment, compared with 43 percent of their peers whose parents had some college and 60 percent of their peers whose parents have college degrees.