Launch aims to help First-generation students

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The Daily Tar Heel

Launch, a new student organization dedicated to helping high school students make the transition to college, began with a conversation.

Sophomores Manhas Narra and Frank Wu, co-founders of the group along with sophomore Abby Dennison, discussed their shared concern about the achievement gap and brainstormed ways to help.

“A lot of first-generation college students and underrepresented minorities coming out of these high schools are getting into colleges — that’s not necessarily the issue,” Wu said.

“There’s a lot of programs to help them get into college, but the problem is retention — them staying in college and not dropping out.”

Dennison, Narra and Wu came up with a two-pronged curriculum to make the transition to college smoother.

The group was awarded a Robert E. Bryan Social Innovation Fellowship — which included a $1,500 grant, instruction and a supply of contacts — to help the group begin operations.

Wu said the first aspect of the curriculum would be workshops for students from the Advancement Via Individual Determination program — which helps minority students get accepted to college — in Chatham County and Orange County high schools.

The workshops will brief students on different aspects of the college application and transition process, such as college application essay writing, applying for financial aid and adjusting to living with a roommate.

Narra said the group is currently testing out the workshops with AVID students from Carrboro High School in hopes of implementing the program in Chatham and Orange County schools in the fall.

The second aspect of the curriculum involves providing contacts and mentors for the AVID students beyond their school counselors.

Narra said he was tutoring students at Carrboro High School when he had the idea for the mentorship aspect of the group.

“I met students who were always talking about how their counselors didn’t really have time for them and how they wished they knew more about the process, so that really got me thinking about Launch,” he said.

He said the organization is looking to recruit volunteers. Interested students can apply on the group’s website.

Dennison said she was personally inspired to co-found the group because of a passion for education.

“I care a lot about education. Both of my parents are teachers,” she said.

“For me, it’s really about connecting with those students personally to help them connect them with what I’ve grown up with.”

By Sam Schaefer, The Daily Tar Heel

Contact the desk editor at university@dailytarheel.com.