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Familial tension and debt await many first-generation students

Nichole Ballard calls herself a “black sheep,” and her family agrees.

“One of my sisters posted something a while back comparing us to characters on The Breakfast Club, so I was the weird chick that ate cereal,” she says, laughing. “So yeah, they think that I’m kind of strange.”

Ballard always knew that she wasn’t going to be like her parents. Her mother, who had her at 17, stayed at home and raised five girls. Her stepfather worked in fiberglass boat repair. Neither graduated high school.
An environment like Ballard’s early years can too often dissuade students like Nichole from being the first in their family to attend college. Like her, first-generation students are often the ones in the family who love learning and being creative, yet are encouraged to get a job immediately after high school.

Researchers, educational coaches and school counselors are investigating and implementing new ways to help these students. Organizations such as I’m First and InsideTrack work with first-generation students and educators year-round to help them find the right college and develop a way to pay for it.

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Cultivating the Technology Talent of Tomorrow in Rural Idaho

Innovative Pilot Program for Idaho High School Students Demonstrates the Power of Coaching in Improving College and Career Readiness

Sagle, an unincorporated community in northern Idaho with a population of roughly 6000 is best known for its hiking, mountain biking, hunting and fishing.  It’s also the home of Jimmy Soderberg, who recently graduated from the Idaho Distance Education Academy (I-DEA), an online public charter school serving K-12 students across the state.  Jimmy is one of several recent Idaho high school graduates who participated in an innovative pilot program known as the Idaho PTECH Network (“Pathways to Technology, Early College High School”) and he is well on his way to a rewarding technology career.

Idaho PTECH is a pilot program funded by the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation. Its mission is to bridge the gap between education and industry. It provides students with the credentials and skills needed to secure well-paying jobs in Idaho’s high growth industries while giving businesses access to a qualified pipeline of employees. Along with giving student hands-on experience in the fields of technology, aerospace/advanced manufacturing and healthcare, the PTECH program also provides students with a success coach to support them in clarifying their long term goals, successfully completing their studies and transitioning to their first job.

The coaching, which is provided by InsideTrack, a leading student success organization, is also generating valuable insights for PTECH and the participating institutions. According to Alan Millar, executive director of the Idaho PTECH Network, “the data coming from coach-student interactions is proving invaluable in our strategic decision making as we develop this pilot program. Through coaching and our partnerships with employers, we’re learning that students need to develop strong soft skills – like problem-solving and time management – in order to be career-ready. Coaching is helping us understand students and the challenges they face so we can support them through the high school to college transitions, and ultimately prepare them for well-paying and fulfilling careers.”

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