St. John Fisher program that helps first-generation college students receives boost in funding

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PITTSFORD, N.Y. (WROC) — St. John Fisher College is hosting a week-long program to help those from low-income families become first-generation college students. It’s called the College Bound Program.

The program is completely free and runs entirely on donations from organizations M&T Bank, Ames-Amzalak Memorial Trust and Fred and Floy Willmott Foundation.

This year M&T Bank has provided a boost of $350,000 in funding to the program.

Xavier Williams and Yodit Ghebrezgabiher were two of the students attending this week. Both reflected on their shared goal: to be first in their family to get a college degree.

“Change is good, like to change that’s a good thing,” said Williams.

The program will teach them all the areas of college application and prep-work their parents may be unable to provide.

Organizer Stacey Ledermann says students even stay in dorms for the full week, to get an idea of what a college experience feels like.

“For many of them it’s the first time being away from home in this college setting,” said Ledermann, Director of Freshman Admissions at the school.

Ledermann says while the program is hosted by St. John Fisher college, it isn’t necessarily about going there.

The program offers tours to other college campuses and provides tips for searching for a school that’s the right fit for them.

She says the program has run every summer for 15 years, and about 90% of participants end up attending a four year college.

“I’m a first generation college grad,” said Daniel Burns, Regional President M&T Bank. “These students can stay on campus for a week and feel what its like, we’ve all been doing this online stuff, nothing is better than being on campus.”

Students got to practice mock job interviews as well.

“It has been something my whole life I’ve wanted to do, because like, I come from a family with lots of siblings, sisters, brothers, to be the first to do that it means a lot,” said Williams.

“My journey starts with my parents,” said Ghebrezgabiher. “They didn’t have opportunities, I do now. They came to America 30 something years ago, I always wanted myself and two older brothers to have experiences they never got,” she said.

Burns and Ledermann say they want this community to thrive. Investing like this will go a long way.

“I want Rochester to thrive, the only way to thrive is to have an educated work force and be ready for jobs of the future,” said Burns.

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