Event Explores Obstacles Facing First-Generation College Students
Author: Office of University Communications
Posted: May 28, 2013


(Portland, Ore.) May 28, 2013 — Marathon Education Partners and students in the Freshman Inquiry "Globalization" course at Portland State University, will host a free public screening of the inspirational documentary First Generation at the Wilson High School auditorium (1151 SW Vermont, Portland, Ore.), on May 29, 2013, at 7 p.m. 

The 95-minute film is narrated by Golden Globe nominee Blair Underwood and chronicles the lives of four California teens as they seek to overcome obstacles to become the first in their families to earn a college degree. The New York Times said that the film "packs power in its subtle way of portraying the complex problems that these low-income, first generation students face."

The First Generation screening will shine light on the issue of educational attainment among under-represented populations, and also highlight the importance of the issue to Oregon, where Governor John Kitzhaber has established a goal of 40 percent of Oregonians earning 4-year degrees by 2025. 

The film audience will be welcomed by Sukhwant Jhaj, vice provost for Academic Innovation and Student Success at Portland State, who will share insight into how the issue of first-generation student success informs efforts at Portland State. 

Jhaj will be joined by Rebekah Olson and Omar Rivera, two first-generation Portland State students who will share what being a first-generation student means to each of them. These students, as part of the PSU's Global Leadership Living Learning Community, have been working with their classmates alongside local education non-profit Marathon Education Partners to promote the screening and educate their peers about the issue.

"This is such a valuable experience because it lets the students see firsthand what they are studying and apply it in situations outside the classroom,"  says PSU Freshman Inquiry professor Chris Carey. "It is their opportunity to not only give back to the community but realize that change begins at home."

Marathon Education Partners has been working for 11 years in the Portland Metro area to remove the obstacles to college success that too often derail the dreams of aspiring, low-income students. By connecting 4th grade students in need with adults who provide support, encouragement and an early incentive college scholarship, Marathon is changing the course of these scholars' lives. Since Marathon Scholars began graduating high school students, the organization has celebrated a 100-percent graduation rate — a rate far above the 60 percent state average for economically disadvantaged students. Marathon will celebrate its first college graduates in 2014. 

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Emma Gray, Executive Director, Marathon Education Partners