K-State program aims to help first-generation college students
Shawnee Mission North is participating in a pilot program aimed to help future first-generation college students.
The Kansas State College Advising Corps (KSCAC) is placing six college advisors into six metro area high schools, which also include SM South and West; Olathe East and North; and Turner High School.
These advisors will help students, particularly those from low-income households, navigate the college application process.
“Applying for college can be very scary, especially if you’re the first one in your family to go,” said Maria Schmidt, who is the KSCAC advisor for Shawnee Mission North. “We’re here to help students learn about financial aid and figure out a plan.”
Although the two-year program is run by K-State, it’s not about pushing students towards that particular school.
Schmidt said she plans to work with each student individually to find out a good fit for them.
And even though the school year has just begun, kids have already approached her for help.
“I’ve had students admit to me that they know nothing and they’re scared,” she said. “And for many of them, they’ve been too busy to even investigate the process. These are students who may also be juggling part-time jobs or helping to raise younger siblings.”
While she’s there to help the students, she’s not there to do their work.
“I’m here for support and to hand out resources, but I can’t fill out the applications for them,” she said. “The students have to want to do it and they need to be responsible.”
At a recent press conference about the new program, SM North graduate and Shawnee native Mario Garcia expressed his excitement about the potential it could bring.
As a student representative, the K-State junior helped with hiring process of each advisor.
“This is about making sure some students don’t slip through the cracks,” Garcia told the Dispatch. “Luckily, I was blessed to have a wonderful support system, but I know that many other students don’t. There are a lot of intelligent students with potential, but they just need access to resources.”
Also at the press conference was General Richard Myers, a retired four-star general in the United States Air Force and 1960 SM North graduate, who is now the interim president of K-State.
He told the crowd he hoped the program would help students leave high school with a plan.
“If this region is going to grow, not wither, we need talent,” he said. “This isn’t about K-State. This is about the bigger idea.”
The KSCAC program is funded by the national College Advising Corps, K-State, the Kauffman Foundation, the National Academic Advising Association, and the Shawnee Mission School District.