With a mission to provide training opportunities for students to become moral leaders in communities throughout the world, Washington Adventist University enrols a highly diverse student body. Almost 40 percent of its student body, for example, are first-generation college students.
This means that neither of their parents completed an undergraduate degree. Research suggests that these students face higher risk of dropping out compared to their counterparts whose parents are college graduates.
The University’s newly established First-Generation Ambassadors Program, operating through the Center Learning for Student Success, aims to provide a special supportive learning space for these students to ensure that they complete their education.
“A part of the program’s goal is to get first year students involved in the community,” explained Sophia Ward, Ph.D, Student Success and Engagement Specialist. “The research shows that students who are engaged in their community have a higher rate of retention. We want to improve retention, plus have them serve the community.”
“We joined Maryland Campus Compact and with that came a student’s in-service grant and an AmeriCorps Vista grant,” Ward added.
The AmeriCorps Vista Grant will provide $120,000 over three years and will enable the Ambassador program to cooperate with the Adventist Community Services of Greater Washington (ACSGW) to organize various community projects. Prior to this, WAU has been working with ACSGW but the grant allows more resources.
The first generation students, or ambassadors as they will be known, will lead in service work, which Ward hopes they will galvanize even more service initiative at WAU. “We do Service days twice a year and I think that’s great, but there are needs to be met continuously. I am hoping that through this program we can have a continued presence in the community.”