Release Date: July 5, 2001
Mother-Daughter Program Helps First Generation College Students
Raising expectations and strengthening bonds between mothers and their daughters is the goal of a program sponsored by Angelo State University and the San Angelo Independent School District to benefit potential first generation college students.
The Mother-Daughter Program identifies promising students as they enter eighth grade and then provides them and their mothers with a mentor to help them understand what to expect not only from college but also, in many cases, from each other.
Tina Banks-Gray, who coordinates the Mother-Daughter program for ASU, said, "The whole initiative behind the program was to give these girls a better feel of the collegiate environment and enhance their chances of ultimately becoming the first in their families to get a college degree."
The theory was that familiarizing the participants with the ASU campus and faculty would eliminate the intimidation that many of those students might feel in beginning a college degree program. The program has indeed shown that to be true, but what was not expected was the bonding the program has spawned between mothers and daughters.
Blanca Garcia, for instance, is now a sophomore biology major at ASU. She started out in the program's inaugural eighth grade class and today serves as a mentor for a new participant.
"The program really helped my mom and me to grow closer," Garcia said. "This program gave us time to spend together and to learn more about each other. I'm a lot closer to my mom now because of the program. She thinks that it helped us a lot. Now she understands me better and I can tell her more about my problems and what's on my mind."
On top of that, the program gave Garcia confidence in her college abilities and a desire to share what she had learned with a junior high student with the potential to be the first in her family to go to college.
"It made me a lot more comfortable about coming to college," Garcia said, "because I had been on campus so many times. I remember my senior year several people would visit ASU and it would be their first time on campus while I'd been here for years," she said.
Satcha Pretto, a senior communications major from Honduras, became a mentor when she was a sophomore and has found the experience to be one of the most rewarding of a very active college career.
"I like the program very much," Pretto said. "My little girl see how I call her my little girl and I were the perfect match because we share a lot of things. She was a cheerleader and was very involved like I had been, so it was easy to share.
"These girls, all of them, have very good grade point averages and are very involved in school, so they are potential leaders, kids who will grow up to be someone if they have the right tools and a little encouragement. I tell my mentee to keep up her grades so she can get a scholarship and a college degree.
"This is a chance to make a difference in her life and my own," Pretto said. "The program brings out the best in both of you. I want to set an example for her and she wants to succeed for me. At the same time I am improving myself."
Banks-Gray said the program selects young girls with the tools to succeed. They are chosen based on their grade point average and their TAAS (Texas Assessment of Academic Skills) Test. Beyond that, each program participant must be in the position to be the first in her immediate family to go to college.
The mothers and daughters undergo an interview process involving their junior high school counselor and the coordinator from ASU. Ten teams of daughters and their mothers are selected to participate in the program each year, Banks-Gray said.
Once the participants are chosen, each mother-daughter team is paired with a currently enrolled ASU coed to help guide them along the road to college.
"The program," Banks-Gray said, "is designed to help the participants develop and enhance academic and social skills in preparation for higher education. The focus is on building strong relationships between mothers and daughters as well as relationships among the group to serve as a foundation for success in school and life."
A variety of social and educational activities are scheduled each year, including a dorm sleepover, orientation sessions and informational sessions to acquaint the participants with career possibilities they may not have been aware of, Banks-Gray said.
"The mothers and the daughters attend all the programs or events that we have during the semester together," Banks-Gray said. "It's more of a group bonding with the mothers and the daughters so that they can develop a stronger support system that will help carry them through college.
"These are girls that probably would have made it to college anyway because of their caliber and mindset," Banks-Gray said. "By the time they are through with the program, though, they have a better understanding of college and are much more comfortable with their prospects. That is an accomplishment we can all take pride in."