First To Soar

Roderick T. Heath, Ed.D., North Carolina Central University / The Center / January 31, 2021

As the fall semester begins with a large majority of students choosing to take classes online, North Carolina Central University and the Men’s Achievement Center are committed to supporting first-generation students. During the fall and spring semesters, our mission is to help our students gain a sense of normalcy and help with getting acclimated to campus, all while keeping them safe as we fight COVID-19. North Carolina Central University has decided to provide holistic programming for all students attending our university. As of this year, we have worked hard to support first-generation students by launching our First To Soar program, dedicated to our first-generation population.

To begin building community, first-generation students were encouraged to attend our First To Soar event on November 4, 2020 virtually. This event provided students with the opportunity to meet fellow first-generation alumni, faculty, and staff and to hear stories from the current student body. During this kick-off, students were able to watch pre-recorded videos from first-generation faculty, staff, and students. These videos allowed program participants to view the individual journeys of those interviewed for the program. As the event concluded, students were able to engage during the live Q&A session that provided more information about campus resources. The highlight of this interaction was seeing students virtually connect with faculty about their personal experiences as first-generation students.

The goal of a student entering into a new environment is to find a sense of belonging. Research suggests that this is very difficult for first-generation students. The hardest part of college is living in a new environment with people from around the world. Our First To Soar Initiative is designed for all campus partners, organizations, and the University College to focus efforts on acclimation for first-generation students through support and resource implementation.

Acclimation Defined

Acclimation is a process through which a “novice” in a new culture gains, “the ability to fit in and execute appropriate and effective interactions in a new cultural environment” (Davis, 2010, p. 32; Ting-Toomey & Chung, 2005, p. 120). Although human behavior is a forever changing process for the human race, people’s personal behaviors are established through their family’s lineage. These behaviors are often hard to change. We know that students will arrive to our campus with their own share of personal issues, fears, and lack of understanding as to how attending college really works. The Men’s Achievement Center, along with our North Carolina Central University’s campus partners, have established ourselves as a family environment for our first-generation students to reach their true potential. It’s our mission to help our students change those insecurities, bad habits, and not let them feed into the imposter syndrome that could affect their transition to college.


Davis, J. (2010). The first generation student experience. Sterling, VA: Stylus.

Ting-Toomey, S., & Chung, L. C. (2005). Understanding Intercultural Communication. Los Angeles: Roxbury Publishing Company.

For more information on North Carolina Central University’s approach, please visit their website here.