From its earliest days as America's frontier, Kentucky has embodied the pioneer spirit. The first settlers here, like Daniel Boone, braved a hard trail through uncertainty and sacrifice, seeking the promise of a better tomorrow.
You can catch a glimpse of that same sense of adventure and determination in the eyes of first-generation college students when they arrive at the University of Kentucky. They have worked hard to get here, and for them the hard work has only just begun. While being first can be exciting, it's never easy.
Representing a partnership between the Division of Undergraduate Education and the Office of Residence Life, the living-learning community includes first-generation freshmen from across campus, including First Scholars, Parker Scholars, Robinson Scholars and students involved in UK's Student Support Services summer bridge program.
"We need to do more as a campus to support first-generation students," said organizer Matthew Deffendall, who directs the First Scholars program at UK and has been working on plans for the residence hall over the past year. "We need to connect students to faculty and to other students who are like them."
The community, housed in the Blanding III residence hall, will benefit first-generation students through small groups, cohort classes and sophomore mentors. Newly renovated community areas on the lower level are open to all first-generation students, including a revamped study room, a pool table, flat screen TVs and a kitchen area.
"It's great to have a place for students to go and feel comfortable," said Living Learning Community Coordinator Kelli Hutchens, who organizes much of the student programming. "We've already seen students come together over classes like Chemistry 105. They have study dates set up and are really using the group areas."
Community activities taking place in the cheery and relaxing rooms include study groups, community service outings and Topic Tuesdays, where students can participate in talks based on critical information that they need to succeed.
"This living learning community is going to be a great resource for first generation students," said Todd Allen, hall director at Blanding III. "Its primary role is that of a support system. All the students are going through similar challenges and can provide a supportive network for one another. Furthermore, the building staff and campus partners are here to provide support and assistance."
The First Generation Living Learning Community also will remain together for UK Core composition and communication classes, in addition to a specially created UK 101 class reserved for first-generation students.
The community has already gained national attention, and was featured in the December 9 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education.
Students are responding positively to the new community as well.
"I love it," said freshman Brittany Boreing. "I could live here for the rest of my college career."