GLCA Grant to Foster College-Going Identity in Albion Youth

Albion College’s School for Public Purpose and Professional Advancement to engage with up to a dozen local parents and caregivers over the next year.

July 13, 2022

A grant awarded last month to Albion College by the Great Lakes Colleges Association (GLCA) aims to explore ways to compellingly instill a college-going identity among K-12 students in the Albion community who would be the first in their families to enroll in college.

The GLCA is funding an initiative titled “Nurturing Generations: Familial Funds of Knowledge and First-Generation Outreach in Albion, MI.” The project director is Dr. Ashley Woodson, dean of the School for Public Purpose and Professional Advancement (SPP) at Albion College.

The $10,500 in GLCA support will enable Woodson, community partners and SPP students who are also part of the A.L.B.I.O.N. Fellows program to recruit approximately 8-12 parents and caregivers from the local community who have not attended college. The grant’s co-authors, SPP Projects and Operations Manager Chrissy Pfeil and community members Marquetta Frost and Linda LaNoue, bring additional leadership and expertise. Over the course of the fall and winter, the group will begin to ask questions and build knowledge, with the ultimate aim of inspiring elementary, middle and high school students to embrace a college education as an achievable goal and crucial bridge to their adult future.

“This effort is simply a way of saying that parents and caregivers deserve access to the toolkits needed to help young people in their life apply for college, select a college and then graduate from college,” says Woodson, adding that first-generation students make up nearly 30 percent of Albion College’s current enrollment.

“We know our first-generation students are brilliant, they demonstrate such navigational excellence,” Woodson says. “Many of the kinds of challenges they face are structural, but some are also internal dilemmas: ‘I don’t need help per se, but if I did I don’t know who to ask.’ ‘Should I get a job on campus or off campus, and what are the pros and cons of each?’ ‘What questions should I ask about my meal plan?’ Those are questions that second- or third-gen students might not have to consider in the same way.”

The Nurturing Generations initiative seeks to address those questions and dilemmas by gathering parents and caregivers over six different 90-minute “grapple groups.” Early sessions will establish rapport among participants as they collaboratively define key terms and determine which forms of expertise and engagement would be particularly helpful in future conversations. Additional discussion and knowledge sharing will be part of later sessions as well, but they will also feature presentations by local experts invited by the group that will center on community outreach and developing a college-going identity.

“It’s a project of asking and answering questions together,” Woodson says. “My strong hope is that we hear from voices we haven’t typically heard from, and that we create safe and appropriate spaces for those voices. We want to be of service to Albion, and not just a college in Albion.”

“This grant should help the College identify new ways to partner with our host community,” says Dr. Ron Mourad, provost and professor of religious studies. “If we don’t listen carefully to what people who live here tell us about our impact in Albion, then our efforts to engage with the community can do more harm than good. This grant will help us listen.”

The goal of the grapple groups will be to design and make a recommendation for K-12 outreach programming that would be developed to the proposal stage and perhaps launch by fall 2023. In what is essentially a pilot test, the Nurturing Generations program will provide a wealth of information to Albion families preparing for their children to take the leap into first-generation college experiences.

And for some, or even many, that experience may well be at Albion College.

“As parents and caregivers get to know us, we hope that they understand why Albion College is a unique and competitive and best choice for students from 49224,” Woodson says, referencing the City of Albion ZIP code. “We live here. We serve here. We are leaders here. And we are very committed to mentoring ongoing leadership from the community we call home.”