Project IMPACT creates a ‘college-going culture’ among first-generation, multicultural students

Thomas Lane, vice president for student life and dean of students, holds a sign saying "FIRST-GEN COLLEGE GRAD" while posing in a photo booth for National First-Generation College Student Celebration Day on Nov. 8, 2019. Lane is a first-generation college graduate. (Dylan Connell | Collegian Media Group)

For over a decade, Project IMPACT has worked to support and encourage first-generation, multicultural and transfer students. Through its programs, high school students tour the Kansas State campus, take classes and hear from speakers who are culturally relevant to them.

Mirta Chavez, director of Project IMPACT and multicultural programs and services and PhD student in counseling, emphasized the importance of the speakers.

“We find that when students see someone that looks like them that has been successful because of the educational process, they get more motivated to think about staring to think about going to college,” Chavez said.

Chavez added most students they see don’t think they could afford to go to college or they don’t really see anyone who looks like them going to school. Chavez said that this is something that needs to change.

“Education is the key to upward mobility in life for everyone, and so what we are really trying to build is a college-going culture,” Chavez said.

Project IMPACT’s programs include KOMPASS and the Multicultural Academic Program Success sessions.

During the summer, MAPS invites perspective students to K-state and, depending on the program, they stay on campus for a few days or a few weeks, Brandon Clark, program coordinator of diversity multicultural student affairs and director of the two programs, said.

“They are getting an early start to their college career while also being exposed quite intimately with potential majors and job opportunities in the fields of engineering, agriculture and business,” Clark said.

Project IMPACT also gives high school students the chance to talk to current K-State students.

“There are students who will say that they probably would not have come to K-State,” Clark said. “Being in MAPS or KOMPASS has influenced their decision. These programs have a very positive impact on the students who are in them, thus the name Project IMPACT. Our goal is to have a positive impact on these multicultural students who are involved in these programs.”

Clark said spending time in these programs gives new students an advantage that many freshman do not have.

“Just like any student who comes to K-State, you can easily get overwhelmed and over-involved,” he said. “These programs give these students an early start.”

While college can be challenging, Project IMPACT encourages students as they come.

“I think the main thing I would want students to take away from Project IMPACT is that college is for everyone,” Chavez said. “People should really think about going to college, and getting a college education really changes the direction of your life.”