Kids2College: First Generation College Grad Gives Back

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Student Testimonial

Meet William Chichester, a 1995 Kids2College Participant, and read how a first generation college grad is giving back.

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Meet William Chichester, 1995 Kids2College Participant

William Chichester vividly remembers putting on a cap and gown and posing for a graduation photo for The Sallie Mae Fund's Kids2College program when he was a sixth grader. The experience gave him confidence that he could and would graduate: first from high school, then from college. Now, as a 28-year-old, he has a degree from a prestigious university and a job he loves, which allows him the opportunity to share his story with kids who may think college is not within their reach.

William Chichester in 1995At Marshall Middle School in Marshall, Virginia, in 1995, William was recommended for the Kids2College program by his teacher, Miss Cathy Erwin-Persiani, to whom he is "eternally indebted," he says. Through this early college awareness program, which since it began in 1992 has served approximately 70,000 students around the country, he and his class learned about scholarships, explored career options, made business cards for themselves, wrote an essay about their future dreams, and took a tour of a college campus. They visited nearby George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.

The program, sponsored by The Sallie Mae Fund in eight states plus the District of Columbia, reaches at-risk students like William.

Reared in Front Royal, Virginia, neither of William's parents attended college. His father struggled with drug addiction and eventually dropped out of the picture. "Looking back, Kids2College was one of those transformational moments," he says. "I learned I wouldn't have to work at the gas station, but I could go to college."

William Chichester in 2005With dedication to his future and the help of his teachers and counselors, William was able to earn over $100,000 in scholarships to attend the University of Virginia. William is the Director of Development of Alumni Giving for the Ron Brown Scholar Alumni Association.

"As a result of the help of programs such as Kids2College, I feel my life's calling is to help other 'first gens' get to college," he says.

William's Top 3 Tips for Applying for Scholarships

  1. Become a familiar face in your guidance counselor's office and in the career center at your school. The teachers and counselors will start to look for opportunities for you if they know you are interested.
  2. Start early. While William was able to get plenty of scholarships, he knows he might have gotten more if he started looking sooner. His advice is to start researching online and applying in your junior year.
  3. Write one essay really well, and make adjustments to use it for many different applications.