‘First Scholars’ program benefactors visit students

By Andrea Hahn

First Scholars recipients with benefactors - Eric and Deb Suder of The Suder Foundation

First Scholars — These Southern Illinois University Carbondale freshman who are participating in the First Scholars program for the 2012-2013 academic year met recently with program benefactors, Eric and Deb Suder of The Suder Foundation. Pictured from left are: front row — Sarah Menckowski, Jacqueline Lopez, Christina Gilroy (SIU Carbondale First Scholars program coordinator), Eric Suder, Deb Suder, Lindsie Lafferty and Rachel Berry; second row — Alexander Schneider, Kelsy Hanley, Annette Torres, Ilcen Lopez, Jazmine Garcia, and Camille Kelly; third row — Ashley Tobin, Steven Ta, Holly Conner, Khadijah Daniels, and Amanda Novak; and back row – Kelsey Becker, Abel Aguilar, Jason Howell, Janeesha Hammond-Bryant, and Pedro Razo. (Photo by Russell D. Bailey)

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Students in the First Scholars program at Southern Illinois University Carbondale recently met their scholarship benefactors when Eric and Deb Suder visited campus.

First Scholars is a grant program backed by The Suder Foundation that provides scholarships and a support system for first-generation students. First-generation students are those whose parents (or grandparents, or great-grandparents) do not have college degrees or certificates, and who completed less than two years of school after high school.

The Suders themselves were on campus recently to meet the students currently enrolled in the First Scholars program. This is the second year for SIU Carbondale students in the program, and the third year the grant has been in place. The first year of the grant was to plan and implement the support system for students.

According to The Suder Foundation, first-generation students may face a variety of challenges once they enroll in a university. These challenges can include students having limited access to information about the college experience; a limited knowledge of time management, college finances, budget management, and the bureaucratic operations of higher education; doubts on their academic and motivational abilities, and difficulty balancing family, work and school responsibilities.

The program provides much more than financial assistance to students. Program coordinator Christina Gilroy said program goals center on helping students feel connected to the University and to the academic community, while simultaneously encouraging them to develop into community leaders who will “pay it forward.” Students work closely with a peer mentor, participate in community service projects, and join registered student organizations to help them be involved in the college experience.

Gilroy said the Suders’ visit was inspiring for the students.

“I think some of them were intimidated at first at the idea of meeting people who seemed so remote to them,” she said. “But once they met them, they were enthusiastic about how down-to-earth the Suders are. The students are grateful for the assistance that the Suders are providing for them — not just financially, but also in anticipating and providing for some of the challenges unique to first-generation students.”

The Suders were on campus in late October. Eric Suder has said that SIU Carbondale’s mission and the goals of First Scholars Program mesh well.

For more information about the program at SIU Carbondale, visit firstscholars.siu.edu/. To learn more about The Suder Foundation, visit www.firstscholars.org/.

The First Scholars for 2012-2013 listed by hometown are:


Antioch: Kelsey Becker

Aurora: Rachel Berry

Blue Island: Victoria Manna

Brighton: Lindsie Lafferty

Calumet City: Taylor Townsend

Carpentersville: Steven Ta

Chester: Britney Schroeder

Chicago: Jazmine Garcia, Janeesha Hammond-Bryant, Camille Kelly, Jacqueline Lopez, Amanda Novak, Asurca Rodriguez, Annette Torres, Alexus Travis

Chicago Heights: Alejandra Esparza

Chrisman: Amanda Ingram

Christopher: Sarah Menckowski

Cutler: Amie Conway

Elk Grove: Abel Aguilar

Evanston: Khadijah Daniels

Fults: Aaron Mueller

Grayslake: Damian Zieminski

Gurnee: Kaitlyn Griffin

Ingleside: Cody Hepner

Manito: Sarah Lohman

Mineral: Amber Blackert

Mount Vernon: Ashley Tobin

Norridge: Nicole Kmiotek

Oak Lawn: Pedro Razo

Pekin: Holly Conner

Rockford: Ryan Fernandes

St. Joseph: Cody Dees

Vandalia: Cameron Keppler

Rolling Meadows: Kelsy Hanley

St. Joseph: Cody Dees

Yorkville: Ilcen Lopez


North Vernon: Alexander Schneider


Festus: Jason Howell

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