Last week, Tennessee State University Senior Woman Administrator Valencia Jordan attended the NCAA’s First Generation Documentary Screening and Discussion panel as a representative of the TSU athletics department.
The documentary, presented to the NCAA Accelerating Academic Success Program Pilot, is narrated by Golden Globe nominee Blair Underwood. It tells the story of four high school students – an inner city athlete, a small town waitress, a Somoan warrier dancer and the daughter of migrant field workers – who set out to break the cycle of poverty and bring hope to their families and communities by pursuing a college education.
Shot over the course of three years, this 95-minute documentary explores the problem of college access faced by first generation and low-income students and how their success has major implications for the future of our nation.
The documentary is in conjunction with the NCAA Accelerating Academic Success Program that was approved by the NCAA Executive Committee.
The purpose of this pilot program is to further the development of systems and enhancements that assist institutions in meeting the requirements of NCAA Division I Academic Performance Program (APP), including increasing the graduation rates and academic success of student-athletes.
“As a part of the regional rules seminar, the NCAA showed a screening of this documentary,” commented Jordan. “They wanted the universities that received the Accelerating Academic Success Grant money to come and talk about the initiatives that we are doing on our campus that are in line with helping first generation students to be successful. I talked about our Academic Boot Camp and our Excel-O-Rate programs here at TSU. Both of those are summer programs that serve as a bridge for a student’s transition from high school to college.”
According to USA Today, roughly 30% of entering freshmen in the USA are first-generation college students and 24% — 4.5 million — are both first-gens and low income. Nationally, 89% of low-income first-gens leave college within six years without a degree. More than a quarter leave after their first year — four times the dropout rate of higher-income second-generation students.
“I believe the message of the documentary is a critical piece in getting first generation students to understand the process of getting into college,” Jordan added. “I feel that it is a very good starting point and can be very successful and beneficial if it were to be shared in high schools throughout the country, especially those in the urban and some rural areas.”
The release date for the documentary has not yet been announced.