Former first lady Michelle Obama has often talked and written about the difficulties she faced as a first-generation college student when she entered Princeton. Now she’s shifting the spotlight to a group of four college freshmen across the country who are tackling their own obstacles in a new IGTV series called “A Year of Firsts.”
“Each of them has overcome tremendous odds to get where they are, and throughout the year, they’ll tell us what that first year of college is really like,” Obama said in a video previewing the series, which is a partnership between ATTN: and Obama’s Reach Higher initiative.
According to the video, the four students are Regan Dunn, Haseeb, Linette Delgado and Robert Booker, and they’re going to school in Washington D.C., North Dakota, California and Alabama (not necessarily in that order). Obama said they’ll be sharing “the ups, the downs, and everything in between” on the six-episode series, which is set to start streaming in mid-January and will continue through June.
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The first year of college is exciting, but also a little nerve-racking. As a first-generation college student myself, I know how intimidating it can be to try to navigate through a new place and make new friends, all while trying to figure out who you are and who you want to be. That's why I'm so excited that @reachhigher is teaming up with @attndotcom to share the stories of four first-year college students: Robert, Linette, Regan, and Haseeb. Can't wait for you all to meet them and learn more about what taking that leap really feels like, day in and day out. Stay tuned!
Based on this sneak peek, the students face some of the same struggles every college student knows — being too sleepy for morning classes, having to study all the time — as well as some more specific to those from less privileged backgrounds.
“When I’m not at class, I’m at work,” Dunn said in a clip.
In the U.S., only about 60 percent of college students stay in school and earn their degrees within six years. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, that number is much lower for Latino students (54 percent), black students (40 percent), Pacific Islanders (51 percent), and Native Americans (39 percent). The rates for white students (64 percent) and Asian students (74 percent) are higher than the average. Another study from NCES found that 33 percent of first-generation college students dropped out within three years after enrolling in college, compared to 14 percent of those whose parents had a college degree.
Obama has been working to change these stats since 2014, when she launched Reach Higher. Not only does she host her famous college signing day events, but the organization also works to support school counselors and provides students with a free app that serves as a sort of virtual college counselor to help them find the right schools and pay for their education.
In September, Reach Higher released a YouTube series with NowThis called “A Guide to Your First Year of College,” which features expert advice on everything from adjusting to living on your own to establishing a new social life on campus.
The new IGTV series will show how all those issues play out in real life for the four freshmen.
“By sharing their stories, they’re helping others see that the ups and downs of the first year of college are something everyone goes through,” Obama said in a statement, “and they’re creating a supportive community for others facing similar challenges.”