St. Catherine University ponders future of program that serves young women of color

The First Step Summer Institute exposes participants to all facets of college life (photo by Cindy Gonzalez)

This could be the last year for a program that introduces young women of color to the college experience at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minn. The school is trying to figure out how to keep funding The First Step Summer Institute.

A spokeswoman for the university says the budget process will start in the fall and a decision could be made by next spring.

Nearly 1,500 high school girls have participated in the program over the last 30 years. During the week-long sessions the girls live in the university’s dormitories and attend workshops about financial aid, the college admission process and how to cope with stress. The program also introduces the girls to successful women of color from around the state. This year the program hosted 45 students from Minnesota and one from Wisconsin, including some relatively new immigrants from Asian and African countries.

The university says the program is aligned with the mission of the school and its commitment to give women of color access to higher education.

Carolyn Jackson, the community outreach coordinator at St. Kate’s, says First Step focuses on building confidence, leadership and community.

“That is so sorely needed in a lot of communities of color and to me that is a very purposeful and powerful investment and it should be a priority,” she said.

In the past, the program has been funded by a number of local companies, including the General Mills Foundation, Travelers, RBC Foundation USA, Piper Jaffray, Ameriprise Financial Inc. and Thomson Reuters.

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly reported the First Step program is shutting down. The story also incorrectly listed Travelers as the main financial supporter of the program.

 

  • Ashley Yang

    Great article! It’s hard to know this program may end or probably is coming to its end. I remember when I was younger- I thought about joining First Step. Programs such as this should be funded and supported always- it’s too bad that Travelers has decided not to fund any longer. I have great hopes for First Step, because like many college access programs and opportunities such as this- so many underrepresented students and youth are being exposed to the wonders of higher education.

  • http://dirtyanalytics.com/ Jake Peterson

    It’s great to see MPR showcasing important issues like this before it’s too late. This sounds like an amazing program. It’s a shame it will shut down without more funding. It seems to me that an experience like this could change a young girls life. Making that difference in just one attendee would be worth $20,000. I really hope they find the funding and maybe grow the program in coming years!