First-Generation College Students Get a Summertime Head Start

Rutgers University–Camden Campus Quad

By Caroline Yount

Sixty-three incoming first-year students got a jump on their college careers this summer, thanks to the Rutgers University–Camden Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) program.

For five weeks, the students lived on campus and took classes, getting a preview of college before the fall semester began. EOF, a state-funded program that supports New Jersey first-generation college students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, covered the costs.

EOF Director Marsha Besong says this incoming class is one of the largest in recent years. The Summer Institute began on June 24 with the students moving into dorms and orientation, where they heard presentations about such topics as academic integrity and how to be successful in college. Some students took developmental classes to ready them for the fall semester and others took introductory classes in English or psychology.

Before classes began, all the students, faculty, tutors, and EOF staff gathered for a community lunch so everyone could get acquainted. “The goal of it was for the students to see us as people,” explains Besong. “We told them, ‘we want to hear from you. We want to know what motivates you.'”

For the students who took part in the Summer Institute, the experience was full of strong connections with staff, faculty, and fellow students.

Charlie Iannerello, a graduate of Atlantic City High School, said the Summer Institute was “a little taste of what the next four years will be like.” Thanks to the program, he feels well-prepared for fall and has done some advising of his own, telling his college-bound friends from home “they will need to manage their time wisely when they get to school.”

Nabeel Ahmed, a recent graduate of Rancocas Valley High School, said getting to know his professors and others involved in the program was very helpful. His summer math professor has already offered to help him with his pre-calculus course this fall.

Iraida Izaguirre, a graduate of Central Jersey College Prep Charter School in Somerset, said the Summer Institute gave her the opportunity to be “independent and get a head start on fall.” She already has some favorite spots to study on campus and appreciates the study skills that were shared by her instructors and tutors.

The Summer Institute wrapped up on July 29 with poster presentations on leadership by the students, another glimpse into the academic world they will enter this fall.

EOF at Rutgers University–Camden is a comprehensive program providing financial aid, one-on-one and group academic counseling, supplemental instruction and tutoring services, workshops, programs, and events to support student success, experiential learning opportunities, and leadership opportunities.

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