Elizabethtown College created a program in 2011 called Momentum that was designed to aid first-generation college students in academic and personal growth. The College has received national recognition for its contributions.
Additionally, Etown’s Momentum program has been used as a frame of reference for other colleges and universities. Representatives have come to Etown specifically for that purpose.
The director and creator of the program Director of Student Transition Programs and Prestigious Scholarships and Fellowships Professor Jean-Paul Benowitz has presented the program’s vitalness at academic conferences nationally.
First-year Momentum student Amy Frasch described her positive experience with the program.
“I am very grateful for the Momentum program…I learned how to manage my time and become accustomed to being away from home,” Frasch explained. “While everyone was scrambling to make friends in the first week, I knew I already had so many great friends I could rely on.”
The percentage of student class participants in Momentum has increased every year. In 2011, the percentage of Momentum students was seven percent and in 2017, it increased to 13 percent. The College received a grant to create the program in 2011.
“Momentum is funded by a grant from the Walmart College Success Awards program through the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) and the Walmart Foundation,” Benowitz explained.
The Postsecondary National Policy Institute (PNPI) provides educational statistics and information about first-generation college students.
Based on their findings in 2011-2012, “42 percent of black students and 48 percent of Hispanic students were first-generation students, compared to 28 percent of white students.”
“The median family income for first-generation freshmen at two- and four-year institutions was $37,565, compared to $99,635 for non-first generation freshmen,” PNIP noted.
Momentum at Etown provides students involved in the program with the tools and assistance they need to succeed at a liberal arts college.
“Through an examination of a wide variety of academic disciplines, students learn how to navigate through curriculum requirements, think critically, develop research and writing skills, engage in creative expression, find a balance between academic responsibilities and co-curricular involvement,” Benowitz stated.
Benowitz said he believes that the program is helpful to the participants in many capacities.
“Momentum works with students to discover their gifts, talents, abilities and to discern their calling, vocation and purpose in life,” Benowitz said.
“The mentoring relationships develop into friendships which last long beyond their years on campus,” Benowitz continued. “The program provides opportunities to develop leadership skills which they sharpen and employ as students and in their future work.”
The Kinesis students, upperclass individuals who have graduated from the Momentum program and want to be involved, serve as peer academic advisors for the students.
Kinesis meet with students weekly to help with strategic planning and time management skills. Kinesis help Momentum participants be accountable for their work, enabling the students to succeed academically.
Kinesis will help students make sure items are turned in on time and encourage the students to stay on top of their work by going through the course syllabus. They also provide tips on how to have a healthy balance of work and personal time/care.
“Kinesis are the energy behind Momentum,” Benowitz noted.
In order to be chosen for the position of a Kinesis advisor, one must have been a participant of the Momentum orientation and be academically successful.
Kinesis Captain and junior Kira Kuhar spoke about why she likes the program.
“When you’re a part of Momentum, you never feel alone on this campus,” Kuhar said. “It’s the best feeling and my favorite part about being involved in the program.”
The Momentum students work with alumni through an aspect of the program called the Momentum Society.
This is important because the thing that “first-generation college students most need is reassurance that perseverance will pay off,” Benowitz noted.
This opportunity is offered to incoming first-generation college students. There are several groups that this pertains to: students whose families have no prior college education and individuals who are African American, Latin American, Asian American or Native American or (ALANA) students. Chosen Momentum students attend a special orientation over the summer.
2017 Summer Orientation, which is the week before Fall Orientation, involved numerous activities that were educational and entertaining.
Students received a tour of the campus, had formal and casual meals with peers, listened to keynote speakers’ talks, learned about poetry and the arts and the history of Etown and engaged in fun group-related activities, according to the Momentum program of scheduled events.
Momentum students who have graduated from Etown are engaged in successful and fulfilling endeavors such as the following graduates:
Miguel Ruiz ’15 serves as the Executive Correspondent Office of Governor Tom Wolf. He collects data and narratives from the Hispanic communities of Pennsylvania, which is used by the governor’s office to inform policy development.
Nelli Orozco ’17 is a Fulbright scholar who teaches in Spain.
Former Kinesis captain Ramon Rios ’17 is a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania, earning a degree in higher education administration.