First-generation College Students Are Staying and Succeeding in School with Help of Masons of California's Investment in Success College Success Program, New Data Shows

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First-generation college students need more than scholarships or free tuition to succeed in school. College success programs like GLOW in San Francisco, combined with California Masonic Foundation's Investment in Success scholarships, are helping students stay in school, new data shows.

"We recognized the need for a college success program, not merely a scholarship.” - Doug Ismail, Executive Vice President, California Masonic Foundation

Ramon Ortiz of Oakland knew he didn’t want to spend his life working at a low-paying job. His parents, legal immigrants from Mexico, taught him the value of a college education and he hoped, someday, to get a college degree. But he couldn’t afford to quit working to go to school full-time. “When I first started working, I wasn’t wise about using my money,” Ortiz, now 20, said. “I started budgeting and planning how to save.”

His outlook got even brighter once he encountered GLOW. GLOW, based in San Francisco, partners with the Masons of California’s Investment in Success program. GLOW’s programs are specially designed to help young people like Ortiz navigate the challenges of getting a four-year college education in California by coaching them on how to manage their personal financial resources and to access federal and state funds.

The Investment in Success Scholarship program, funded by the California Masonic Foundation, was designed to help students exactly like Ortiz. “We’re choosing students who are not otherwise being recognized or benefitting from existing scholarship programs,” says Doug Ismail, the Foundation’s executive vice president. “Ninety-five percent of our students are the first in their family to attend college. We recognized the need for a college success program, not merely a scholarship.”

New data released by GLOW and Masons of California shows that since the Investment in Success Scholarship program began in 2011, the number of full-time students enrolling and staying in college through the program has increased, and the percentage of dropouts has decreased. Of the 89 Investment in Success scholars who began college in fall 2013, 74 percent are still in school. Eighty-nine new students enrolled in fall 2014, and only four have left college as of January 2015.

Peter Kim, executive director of GLOW, explains why: “We partner with leaders in college access and success, who are supporting students to get ready to enter and graduate from college. GLOW works with these partners to bring our financial literacy and college financial planning program to students who need help managing their financial resources and anticipating financial needs. We make sure they know about scholarships and other available financial aid.”

Staff and volunteers at many GLOW partnership organizations, including Mission Graduates’ College Connect program in San Francisco, communicate with students on a regular basis to offer support and resources to help them succeed in college. Mentors are involved in coaching scholars each step of the way - from pre-collegiate preparation and the application process through the difficulties of balancing college work and other responsibilities, including financial support of their families.

Thanks to GLOW and the Masons, Ortiz was able to access needed state and federal aid, and his Investment in Success Scholarship covers the cost of books and some living expenses. Today, he attends San Francisco State University full time. He also works two part-time jobs – at Taco Bell and at a financial institution that serves the Latino business community. And as important as the scholarship money is, the advice and guidance he has gotten from GLOW has been invaluable.

“If it weren’t for the help from these organizations and my Investment in Success Scholarship, I probably wouldn’t be going to college,” Ortiz says. He now aspires to a career in government, possibly as an economic advisor.

This year, the Masons of California will distribute more than $800,000 in Investment in Success scholarships to 90 scholars chosen through the Masons of California/GLOW partnership. Funds are raised solely from individual contributions by California Masons. The scholarships are part of the fraternity’s statewide public education initiatives, which will bring more than $1 million to public schools, teachers, and students this year. Says Ismail, “It’s about making a difference in the lives of kids and their families. It’s a philosophy, not a strategy.”

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Jean Shirk
Jean Shirk
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