For the Future helps first-generation college student on path to success

Genevieve Brown was a first-generation college student, but scholarships helped her afford her Penn State degree. She now is pursuing her doctorate thanks to the support she received at Penn State as an undergraduate. Credit: storyshop LLCAll Rights Reserved.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- While applying to college can be an overwhelming experience for any high school senior, it was particularly nerve-wracking for Genevieve Brown. As the first member of her family to attend college, Genevieve had no sibling, cousin or parent to turn to for advice, let alone to help pay the bills.

“I come from a low-income family, and none of my family has ever attended college before,” Genevieve said. “To take that step going to undergraduate study was really frightening because it was unknown territory. Luckily, I had a lot of help at the beginning. I was given scholarships which showed me that going to college was something I could do.”

Genevieve received the Henry F. Schoenfeld Scholarship in Engineering, the Coldron Family Trustee Scholarship and the John W. White Graduate Fellowship to help her and her family afford her degree in bioengineering and pursue research opportunities. The support she received from these donors, the Ronald E. McNair Scholars Program, and her faculty mentors inspired her to keep going after her 2010 graduation: She is currently pursuing her doctorate in biomedical engineering at Columbia University.

“Philanthropy plays a huge role in making students aware that there isn't a limit to what you can do with your education,” Genevieve said. “My family told me, ‘You have to get a job before you can even think about going to college,’ and when I was applying, I didn’t think it was possible. However, I soon learned that support you receive from Penn State donors and alumni allows you to achieve your educational goals.”

Donors to For the Future: The Campaign for Penn State Students have made an impact on Genevieve and thousands of students like her at Penn State. Scholarships and awards created by donors during the campaign have benefited more than 16,000 individuals who are the first generation in their families to attend college.

For Genevieve, the opportunity to earn a college degree was life-changing. Her faculty members encouraged her to conduct research as an undergraduate student, which motivated her to pursue a career in academic research herself. She also joined Penn State’s Mashavu engineering project to design low-cost medical devices for people in Kenya living where medical care is not readily available. Her Penn State experiences taking discoveries from the lab to the people who need it most have inspired Genevieve to study diseases like cancer and osteoporosis to better treat patients.

“The people I met at Penn State, including the donors who supported me, are definitely the ones that gave me my confidence,” Genevieve said. “They saw something in me that I never thought of before. When I was 18, I would never have thought that I’d be a researcher. I didn’t know anybody who did research, but Penn State saw that potential in me.”

For the Future: The Campaign for Penn State Students is directed toward a shared vision of Penn State as the most comprehensive, student-centered research university in America. The University is engaging Penn State’s alumni and friends as partners in achieving six key objectives: ensuring student access and opportunity, enhancing honors education, enriching the student experience, building faculty strength and capacity, fostering discovery and creativity, and sustaining the University’s tradition of quality. The campaign’s top priority is keeping a Penn State degree affordable for students and families. The For the Future campaign is the most ambitious effort of its kind in Penn State’s history, with the goal of securing $2 billion by 2014.

Last Updated April 10, 2014