Purpose First Scholars during the NACE competencies awards photo by: Savannah Longo
Purpose First is a program that launched at APSU in 2021 aimed towards first generation and low resource freshman with a goal of providing a helping hand in the foreign college experience.
The program is currently funded by a 2.5 million federal grant given to Austin Peay by the U.S Department of Education.
“Our goal is to provide that support during that transition period for those students, creating a community for them and also focusing in on the career readiness aspect,” said Dr. Kacie Hutson, Title III Coaching and Student Success Initiative.
Purpose First is currently in its second year of running with a total of 55 members and is expected to reach at least 100 by next year.
Within its small time of existence, the program has already made significant progress in development.
“Savannah Longo came on board and she has really expanded the program in many ways including increasing the number of students that are being served in the program, along with an in person two day special orientation for this program; these students also attend that two day special orientation with honors and PELP students,” said Hutson.
Purpose First is focused on creating a learning community among its members to provide first generation and low resource students with extra support.
“We also started an orientation weekend this year. So, students moved in early. They also lived in the same residence hall, so what we call a learning community where they live together, they take classes together to create that sense of belonging with each other,” said Hutson.
With career readiness being at the core of Purpose First, NACE competencies were implemented within the program to ensure success post graduation. It is the very thing that sets them apart from other programs on campus.
Dr. Hutson stated, “We are the program that is providing those NACE competencies to students, no other program on campus is really focused on preparing students for a career post graduation, especially as early as their freshman year. We wanted to start from the very beginning, helping students understand the purpose of why they’re here and focus on their education.”
The program values community and support. It strives to be a light for that first generation and low resource college student.
“It becomes a lot easier to ask for help when you realize that everyone around you is in the same boat, and you’re not alone. You’re not the only one having these challenges,” said Hutson.