Cville 1st Gen was started to address potential needs of First Generation College Students (FGCS) within the Charlottesville community. As an AVID teacher and coordinator at Charlottesville High School, Brian Kayser recognized how many AVID students experienced summer melt or dropped out of college during their first year. Cville 1st Gen was started in 2018 by Kayser and his former AVID students. Together, they built a community-based cohort to provide support, encouragement, and connection as students began college. The group also started a first-gen survival guide book, which is still in progress. Throughout the 2018-19 school year, Cville 1st Gen met during breaks while having check-ins through text and email throughout the school year. Cville 1st Gen welcomed a new cohort of CHS AVID graduates during the summer of 2019. Just like the previous summer, Cville 1st Gen met as a cohort every two weeks to build community, discuss potential issues they might face at college, troubleshoot individual questions, and work through identity exercises.
COVID-19 did not stop this group from serving the students of Charlottesville community.
Throughout May and June, they created the curriculum for a weeklong virtual retreat. On June 15th, 2020, the retreat for rising high school juniors and seniors began. They had twelve juniors and thirty seniors signed up for the summer retreat. On the first day, students learned about the overall college application process, including an introduction to college essay with Fatima Lopez (‘22), a Cville 1st Gen member, and a presentation on how to find colleges and learn more about majors with Nadiya Khaydari (‘22), a Cville 1st Gen member. On the second day, students learned about the components of Common App and how to identify and email recommenders. Students continued working on identifying colleges and majors of their choice. On the third day, students learned how to connect with professors and teachers with Kelly Kossi, a Cville 1st Gen member (‘22), and Bonnie Gordon, a UVa professor in the music department. We also hosted an admissions talk with Dejuanna Gillispie, an admissions counselor at UVa, where students asked specific questions pertaining to them and their paths to college. Students continued working on their essays and Common App. During the fourth day, students attended a mental health talk with Mary Feamster from Region 10, learned about tips and tricks to use during SAT, and participated in a resume building session with Nadiya Khaydari to provide students with options to advance their resumes during a pandemic. On the last day, we finished up with the HBCU Panel with first-gen college students (and Cville 1st Gen members) Shadoures Henderson (Virginia State University, ‘21) and Sanora Durden-Williams (Virginia Union University, ‘23). At the end of each day, students had a chance to ask for help or assistance during virtual office hours. Throughout the week, students had access to get their resumes, essays, and schedules checked out. Several Cville 1st Gen members were available to provide help as well.