Join the First Scholars Network!
Become a Network Member to transform your institution for first-gen student success.
First Scholars Network Member logo

Supporting our First-gen Students at Portland Community College

General C. Johnson, N.D., Portland Community College / The Center / September 16, 2020

Hello, from Portland, Oregon. As we write this blog, we’re recognizing the incredibly stressful and traumatic time for many in our community as they face fires, oppression, and the general constant changes that we are faced with. Our students continually demonstrate resilience as they work to start school next week through all of this adversity.

With this blog entry, we intend to share where we are at as a first-generation serving institution by highlighting two programs at Portland Community College (PCC) that specifically address achievement gaps for first-generation college students: TRIO Student Support Services and Future Connect.


Our Programs Serving First-generation Students
TRIO Student Support Services (TRIO SSS)

TRIO SSS is an asset- and equity-based program, which serves a cohort of 140 students who identify as first-generation, low-income, or have documented learning disabilities annually. We guide students in developing a strategic plan to reach their academic and personal goals. We provide courses to support their retention, success, completion, and transfer.

Future Connect

Future Connect is a scholarship and support program for students who identify as first-generation or low-income, which works in conjunction with city partners in the Portland Metro area. Future Connect serves approximately 350 new students each fall at the college and works with students throughout their college careers.

Students in these programs are generally from historically and traditionally minoritized or marginalized communities. We make every effort to focus on eliminating barriers to college and providing students with one-on-one advising/academic success coaching, tutoring, and wrap-around services. These help us to ensure their success in navigating the college experience, while providing tools that support their educational development and success.

Many of our students work, have families, and other responsibilities. Therefore, we focus on the importance of building relationships that foster a sense of belonging and trauma-informed practices that reflect our understanding of trauma-informed experiences that many of our students have had.

Our Focus for 2021

PCC is embarking upon multiple strategic initiatives that  support its students holistically. From establishing guided pathways to a strategic enrollment management redesign, PCC is full of change this year. Some of that change is at the center of our Yes to Equitable Student Success (YESS) work.

As a participant in the First-gen Forward cohort, our two programs look to elevate student support centered on first-generation students amidst this massive institutional change. Our First-gen Forward cohort’s focus is building momentum within the college as we assess, validate, and map out staff and programs within the college where our first-generation team works. We believe this initial step will allow our first-generation students to begin seeing themselves in our student spaces, campuses, and communities.

We know the work we are doing with first-generation students is real and substantial. We also know the next level of this work is building capacity and raising awareness institution-wide as we strive to broaden support for every first-generation student who accesses our college. We will endeavor to do this in 2020-2021.

For more information on Portland Community College’s approach, please visit their website here.