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Nevada First-Gen Network Creates Program for Prospective College Students

In collaboration with the Incline Education Fund, the Nevada First-Gen Network offers a free summer pilot program to engage and inspire rising 6th and 7th graders from Incline Middle School. The program will expose students to various STEM activities, leadership building, art and culture in a fun and inclusive University-based environment.

The Nevada First-Gen Network, based in the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Nevada, Reno, supports students who would be the first in their family to attend college. They are accepting applications for the upcoming summer program until Wednesday, July 13. Students who are entering the 6th or 7th grade and are Incline Village residents are eligible to participate. The program will run from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday, from July 18 to August 4.

The Nevada First-Gen Network, a new initiative made possible by COVID-19 ARPA funds, is dedicated to bridging the gap in access to educational resources across communities in the State of Nevada and providing relief to first-generation college-bound students affected by COVID-19. The Incline Village program is the first program to come from the COVID-19 ARPA fund, championed by Senator Heidi Seevers Gansert and passed by the Nevada legislature in their last session.

Much of the Nevada First-Gen Network’s summer program is modeled after the University’s Dean’s Future Scholars program. The goal of DFS is to increase the number of low-income, first-generation college students graduating from high school, gaining access to higher education.

“DFS’ culture is about giving back and encouraging students to reach their highest potential,” Zaira Diaz, who was part of the DFS 2016 cohort, said. “As a DFS program participant myself, it’s amazing to see them expand into a much-needed community in the Washoe County School District.”

The pilot program was created to provide support and exposure to college life for middle and elementary school students in Incline Village. When the Nevada First-Gen Network team visited students in Incline Middle School and Incline Elementary School, they often heard comments from students such as, “Oh, they’re from UNR, I can’t go there. It’s too expensive,” or “I’ve never really thought about what I’m going to do after high school.”

“This is an exciting opportunity for the University, our college and the Incline community,” Dean of the College of Education & Human Development Donald Easton-Brooks said. “We see the Incline and Tahoe area as an extension of Reno, and a valuable part of the Nevada experience.”

While Incline Village is only 50 minutes from Reno, many students grew up never traveling to Reno. In addition, the Nevada First-Gen Network team found a large income gap in the Incline Village community and a lack of programming options for middle school and high school students.

During the three-week pilot program, students will be participating in a variety of activities in both Incline Village and Reno. Participants will spend two days each week at the Parasol building in Incline Village, and two days each week at the University of Nevada, Reno. Students receive free transportation to Reno.

Incline Village activities will include learning about water conservation at the Tahoe Environmental Research Center, working with animals at Pet Network, High Altitude Fitness rock climbing and swimming at Hidden Beach. In Reno, students will have excursions to Wild Island Waterpark and Reno Ice, plus they will learn about Makerspace 3D printing and hear from guest presenters from various academic fields.

“With Sierra Nevada University officially transitioning to the new University of Nevada, Reno at Lake Tahoe on July 1, our team is excited to see how we can work with community stakeholders to expand mentoring and college access opportunities for the Washoe County School District students who live in Incline Village,” Mariluz Garcia, founder of the Nevada First-Gen Network and executive director of Dean’s Future Scholars, said. “In our 22 years of work, we have found that exposing students to college life at a young age and connecting them with mentors from similar backgrounds is a transformative experience that opens up their world to more options and possibilities.”

 By providing a summer program that focuses on mentoring and summer enrichment, the Nevada First-Gen Network is confident that this summer experience will expand their horizons about possible careers and post-secondary options.

“The  entire Nevada First-Gen Network team is built from individuals who have grown up with the Dean Future Scholars’ program, and we are excited to offer these resources to the community of Incline Village,” Osvaldo Jimenez, Nevada First-Gen Network project manager, said.

The excitement of this new program was evident after Nevada First-Gen Network’s first recruitment event, when a student exclaimed, “Finally, something fun is happening around here!” The Incline Village community and their students are eager for new summer activities and the Nevada First-Gen Network is honored to offer this wonderful opportunity.

In addition to direct outreach, the team will be producing a statewide needs assessment that centers on Nevada’s prospective first-generation student population, as well as creating a micro-grant program to support first-gen initiatives throughout the State of Nevada.

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