A Franklin Community High School freshman’s parents never went to college, and that has only made her drive to further her education stronger.

“I really want to go to college and be an engineer or a teacher and make a good life for myself,” freshman Amber Johnson said. “I want to go as far in life as possible, and I truly think I am capable of that.”

First-generation college students like Johnson are exactly who the high school’s First Scholars program are geared toward. The program prepares high school students for college by giving them advice about the future and assisting them with the college admissions process, including taking them on college visits and helping them apply for financial aid.

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Johnson is one of 25 students in the program. Each is paired with a mentor, most who graduated from Franklin, who will serve as a role model for the student throughout the next four years. The goal is to give first-generation college students a role model who has been to college to help with everything from deciding a major to figuring out how to pay for college.

“They are here to help you build relationships, get a head start on college planning and have fun,” said Ryan Waggoner, founder of First Scholars and Franklin Community High School graduate.

The group met for the first time last month, and will continue meeting throughout the school year.

Mentors volunteer to attend one meeting a month and are encouraged to stay in contact with their students a few times throughout the weeks.

“As a first generation student, you have a lot of question and face a lot of challenges,” said mentor Justin Fish, who was a first generation student himself. “I want to impact others by helping them overcoming those challenges and helping them have success one day.”

The student Fish is working with, Darin Gravett, wants to study music and hopes the mentor program will allow him to have someone who can help him every step of the way in the college admissions process.

“I want to go to college and get a really good job because my parents didn’t, and they really want me to be able to make money and have a steady job,” Gravett said. “This program wouldn’t be possible without the mentors who volunteer and I’m really thankful for that.”

Fellow student Jasmine Gallagher wanted to go through the program to have someone to help guide her through the process of getting into college, she said.

“I don’t know a lot about getting into college, and I feel like a lot of people don’t think getting more education is important, but it is,” Gallagher said.

Waggoner looks forward to watching the students grow throughout the next four years.

“It’s a good way to pay it forward and help the next generation of students succeed,” Waggoner said.

Want to be a mentor?

The First Scholars program is not looking for any additional mentors for this school year, but will be accepting new mentors for next school year.

Mentors need to:

  • Have a desire to help high school students in the community.
  • Be willing to attend a one-hour meeting each month.
  • Contact Ryan Waggoner at Ryan.Waggoner@icemiller.com.