LCCC Newsletter: Keeping you updated on the college
First generation students get a boost with new program
Going to college wasn’t always a part of Jack Lance’s life plan. But during his sophomore year of high school in Green River, Wyoming, the 18-year-old was inspired to pursue a career as a sound engineer.
“I have always loved movies, especially animated movies, which were a big part of me growing up,” Lance said. “Music has always been super important to me, and I wanted to learn how to make music, and make the music sound good.”
Going to college, however, initially felt daunting to Lance, who aims to be the first in his family to earn a college degree. That is why Lance is part of the inaugural class of the Davis First Generation Experience at LCCC, a program designed to help students who are the first in their families to traverse the college path.
As his first week at LCCC came to a close with a banquet to celebrate the program’s participants, Lance said he felt like he understands where he needs to go on campus if he needs help.
“I definitely know now that if I run into any problems, I’ll be taken care of,” Lance said.
The Davis First Generation Experience (DFGE) is designed to help incoming first-generation college students feel comfortable on LCCC’s campus and ready for the challenges of going to college. Dr. Danielle Ryan, LCCC Human and Public Services Pathway coordinator and the DFGE’s co-lead, said it's her hope that the program will help the first-generation students she’s working with stay in college until completion.
“My angle is doing whatever we can do to help them stay in college, feel comfortable and build their confidence,” said Ryan, who is a first-generation scholar herself.
Definitions of a first-generation college student vary, but it’s commonly understood as students whose parents did not complete a four-year degree. At LCCC, 29% of students are considered first generation.
First-generation students, Ryan said, face unique obstacles in going to college. A considerable body of research indicates that students whose parents have not attended college often face significant challenges in accessing postsecondary education, succeeding academically once they enroll, and completing a degree, according to a 2018 study from the U.S. Department of Education. The report found first generation students enrolled in college at lower rates than peers whose parents had college experience and first-generation students are less likely to obtain a degree or certification.
The DFGE is made possible through the generosity of Dr. and Mrs. Harmon Davis, both first-generation college students. Dr. Bud Davis, a retired physician who has lived in Cheyenne for more than 40 years, said he wanted to see more first-generation students at LCCC earn degrees or certificates. But he said many of those students face the challenge of not having family members with a higher education background who can help guide them through the experience.
“Even though the college has counselors and people to help, (first generation students) just don’t know where to turn,” Bud Davis said. “Hopefully giving them this introduction, letting them see what’s available and spending some extra time explaining what it means to be a college student will help them be successful.”
The 11 students participating in the program’s inaugural year began their college journey by participating in a one-week program, that included a course called Strategies for Success, or STRT, that allowed them to earn three credit hours before the semester began for the larger student body at LCCC. While navigating the rigorous one-week schedule, Jamie McKim, LCCC’s Albany County campus Workforce and Outreach Development manager and DFGE co-lead, said the idea is to connect the DFGE scholars with others in their cohort and develop a sense of community while they learn some of the essential information about getting started in college.
“It’s really about making sure we have everything at these students’ disposal to make it equitable,” said McKim, who is also a first-generation scholar.
DFGE students moved into the residence halls on Aug. 13 and immediately began the work in the STRT course. Throughout the course, the students spent time getting to know the campus and its resources, and learned about what it means to be a successful college student.
Incentives for taking on the DFGE program include:
- free tuition for the STRT course
- a $1,000 during students’ second year if they complete the week-long STRT course, as well as four additional events designed for first generation scholars throughout the academic year
- a welcome package with college essentials
- an opportunity to live in the residence hall and access to the LCCC dining hall, at no cost to the student, during the program
Perhaps the biggest thing Ryan and McKim hope the students take from their introductory experience is to learn that they are not alone in their college journey and that people are here at LCCC to help them succeed, no matter what they run into.
“If you stick with this, it’s going to pay off for you and it’s going to give you a life that you never had an opportunity to have,” McKim said. “And we’re going to be here to help you.”
More students than ever live on LCCC campus
Daniel Thorson looked at a lot of colleges in trying to decide where to pursue his education after high school. When he found Laramie County Community College with its Information Technology program and the college’s excellent Residence Life offerings, he knew he’d found the right place.
Thorson is one of at least 340 students who will live in LCCC’s residence halls in Fall 2022, with many of those students filling up carts and crowding elevators during Move-In Day on Aug. 19. Hailing from Thornton, Colorado, the 19-year-old said he expects living in the residence halls will be an important part of his college experience.
“It wouldn’t feel like you’ve actually gone to college unless you live in (a residence hall) for at least a year,” he said.
In her third LCCC Move-In Day, Residential Living Interim Director Melissa Nelson said she’s always excited to meet new students and see her returning students make their way back.
“It’s a defining moment where we’re creating something new every year,” Nelson said. “Our community is really important to me, so it’s cool to see that start to take shape.”
Returning student Helena Abeyta of Greeley, Colorado, said she enjoyed her first year in the LCCC residence halls, getting involved with campus life without feeling overwhelmed. As she looked forward to events and activities offered to students living on campus, Abeyta said she’d recommend the experience to others.
“It’s totally worth it,” she said. “It makes college easier to be around friends and get out there.”
The convenience of being on campus in close proximity to classrooms, the dining hall and more is a big factor for students in deciding to live in LCCC’s residence halls, Nelson said, but the more important factor is the access to resources.
“We have staff available 24 hours a day to answer questions,” Nelson said. “So if you’re like, ‘Oh gosh, I don’t know how to log into this and I have something due tonight,’ you can give us a call and we will help troubleshoot that with you. We give students the ability to be comfortable and have ease of access.”
Students can feel a range of emotions on their first day in the residence halls, anywhere from feeling nervous to excited about the experience, Nelson said. The most common Move-In Day problems involve students arriving and realizing they didn’t bring something they’d need, like a shower caddy or extra blanket — which Nelson said are easy to address. But for Nelson, who spent all four years of her college experience living on campus, a more serious problem can be feeling alone in a new place.
“It’s easy to feel alone, but our students are not alone,” she said. “There's always someone who will help students and make them feel like they can be successful in school.”
Moving a cart loaded up with shelves with help from her family, 19-year-old freshman Brienna Banasky of Greybull, Wyoming, said she wasn’t quite sure what to expect on her first day. But as she goes into the semester studying physical therapy, she said she expects she’ll get the most out of campus living.
“I don’t know what activities and stuff (I’ll get involved in) yet, but I’ll figure it out,” she said.
For more information about living on campus, visit lccc.wy.edu/life.
Fall Kickoff captures excitement of new semester
Laramie County Community College incoming freshman Natalie Schein admired art adorning the walls of the Esther and John Clay Fine Art Gallery with around half a dozen other students Aug. 19, thinking about her future at the college. Campus was filled with excitement that day as Schein, 19, took part in the Fall 2022 Kickoff event, welcoming students back to campus.
Schein, of Guernsey, said she was looking forward to exploring the art program, which is part of the Communication & Creative Arts Pathway at LCCC.
“I just like the freedom to do whatever you like and create whatever you want,” Schein said. “If you can imagine it, you can do it.”
More than 240 students, many joined by members of their families, took part in the annual Kickoff celebration where students engaged with their pathway coordinators, explored campus with a Resource Scavenger Hunt and learned about all the ways faculty and staff at LCCC can support them in their college experience.
The day’s events were all about starting a journey together, said LCCC President Joe Schaffer. The students, he said, should never feel like they are alone in that journey, as their peers, faculty and staff are here to help them.
“You are here, we are here for you, and every step of the way somebody from LCCC is going to help guide you,” Schaffer told attendees in the packed dining hall. “Is it going to be tough work sometimes? You bet. Are you going to have to do your part? Absolutely. But I guarantee you this: If you put in the effort, we’ll put in the effort. And ultimately you will move on to that next stage in your life and make us proud as a Golden Eagle.”
It’s always wonderful to welcome new and returning students to campus with the Kickoff, said Carole Boughton, Business & Accounting Pathway coordinator. The event helps students to see that faculty and staff are personable and committed to their success, making sure they feel comfortable on campus to find their classes, faculty offices and the resources LCCC offers, she said.
“This year, I want to ensure students are connected to each other, the campus and the greater community,” Boughton said. “I want students to feel supported and know that we are all here for their success. I also want students to learn and grow as individuals to ensure they are on the best path for them.”
Victoria McCormick, 18, is another incoming freshman who participated in the Kickoff. She appreciated being able to team up with her pathway coordinator in Human & Public Services, meet new people and get an idea of what the semester will hold.
“You meet a lot of people and learn about a lot of resources,” McCormick said of the event. “Even just talking with others and finding study buddies or people within your pathway makes it worth attending Kickoff.”
Schein and McCormick are part of a special group of students as the Fall 2022 semester is one of the largest first-time freshman class in LCCC’s history, which Dr. Melissa Stutz, Student Services senior vice president, said is a rewarding achievement after the challenging COVID-19 era.
“It’s an opportunity for a sense of normalcy and the desire to have on-campus interactions,” Stutz said. “It’s an opportunity (for students) to take steps toward their next chapter of either transferring to a baccalaureate institution or to a skill-set that will place them in the workforce — an opportunity to change their lives.”
After having a couple of years where semester Kickoff events were limited because of COVID-19, it was fantastic to see the energy of a full-fledged event in 2022, said Trent Morrell, Science, Technology, Engineering & Math Pathway coordinator. The beginning of each semester brings excitement, as well as nervousness, he said. But with the right disposition, Morrell said students can achieve their academic goals.
“Go to your classes with the excitement of curiosity, but also with humbleness and respect,” he said. “Never be afraid to ask questions, and communicate with your instructors and your peers. Stay on top of your work by just taking one day at a time. Relax. You can do this.”
As the semester gets underway, J O’Brien, Communication & Create Arts Pathway coordinator, said the most important advice he could give students is to seize the opportunities in front of them as they take the first steps toward a better future.
“Take every opportunity,” O’Brien said. “The regrets we really have are the missed opportunities.”