THE FIRST2 NETWORK MISSION IS TO INCREASE THE NUMBER OF FIRST-GENERATION COLLEGE STUDENTS WHO GRADUATE WITH DEGREES IN SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, ENGINEERING, AND MATH (STEM) FIELDS IN WEST VIRGINIA AND BEYOND.
FIRST2 IS SUPPORTED BY THE NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION INCLUDES INITIATIVE.
As part of their 10 Big Ideas the National Science Foundation has created the INCLUDES initiative to drive innovation in the United States by moving the needle on STEM participation by underrepresented people across the country. The First2 Network is one of five Alliances across the country funded through this initiative. With approximately $7 million dollars of support across 5 collaborative organizations the First2 Network will spend 5 years launching an innovative and dynamic program addressing STEM retention issues for first generation and other underrepresented students.
There are currently more job opportunities in STEM fields than there are qualified candidates to fill those positions in both West Virginia and the nation. In order to fill that gap and attract crucial economic opportunity to West Virginia we need to create a strong, robust and diverse workforce. There are plenty of talented young people who are interested in these careers, many of whom are the first in their family to go to college.
The First2 Network knows that far too many of these students either do not successfully persist in STEM pathways through to graduation or drop out of college entirely. We believe that the first two years of college are a critical moment for success in STEM pathways and that by supporting first-generation students to do well and promoting the development of institutional advancement and policy change to better serve these students we will see a real change in persistence and graduation rates.
It is our belief that bringing together and elevating the voices of first generation and underrepresented students with representatives from K-12, higher education, industry, small business, government, non-profits, and other community partners The First2 Network can identify and address the real challenges facing first-generation college students pursuing STEM pathways in WV.
As a principal investigator High Rocks brings over 20 years of experience supporting young people in West Virginia. We know a lot about the challenges facing first-generation college students. We also know a lot about the strengths those young people bring to the table, and how to maximize those strengths through leadership development. High Rocks is excited to work with this exciting new network of leaders across the state on these issues and to promote student agency, leadership, and power as we build a stronger West Virginia.
High Rocks and the First2 Network deeply believe:
- Students are key leaders and should always be at the leadership table, working with college presidents, legislators, and community leaders to find the right solutions.
- Early immersive research experiences are crucially advantageous for students as they develop their STEM confidence and academic development.
- Actively developing student leadership will allow students to successfully partner with other change agents to solve these endemic problems, and
- An innovative thinking approach to collective impact provides the best pathway for big picture, lasting change.