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.