Gift from Firstbank Supports Center for First-Generation, Low-Income and Disabled Students at Colorado State University

A $50,000 gift from FirstBanks of Colorado will establish a pending endowment fund and will provide support for a Colorado State University center dedicated to helping first-generation, low-income and disabled students.

A large part of the gift from the FirstBank Community Fund – $45,000 – will be used to enhance services offered by the university’s Academic Advancement Center, a center aimed at boosting participants’ academic success and graduation rates. The center serves enrolled students who come from populations that historically have low graduation rates – including students whose parents have not received college degrees, students with high financial need and students with disabilities. Each year, an average of 300 students take advantage of the center’s services, which include tutoring, advising, mentoring and study skills sessions. The center also offers a computer lab, classes on strategies for college success and workshops on computer and financial management skills.

"This generous gift will provide opportunities for students who have the potential and desire to succeed, but may not have adequate support systems or study skills," said Anne Wilcox, director of the Academic Advancement Center. "Funds from FirstBank will be used this year to enhance the center’s peer mentoring program. Research shows that when students make personal connections, they are far more likely to stay in school. The peer mentoring program is critical because it connects incoming students with people who can help them make a successful transition to college-level work and to the campus environment. It also helps sophomore, junior and senior volunteer mentors build leadership skills."

During 2001-2002, the FirstBank gift will be used to strengthen the Mentoring for Leadership program. The program will enroll at least 15 first-year student protégés and 15 successful upperclass student mentors. The program goal is to retain 82 percent of participating students to their third semester – matching the retention rate for all Colorado State freshmen.

The program’s core is a one-credit course that brings pairs of mentors and protégés together as a group once a week. Sessions provide first-year students with a personal, comprehensive introduction to Colorado State and college-level expectations. Class topics include learning styles, application of learning theory, study skills, self-management and accessing support services and resources on campus. During the process, mentors develop skills in understanding group dynamics, organizing activities and group facilitation. The pairs also interact outside of class every week and attend events together throughout the year. The course fosters a close association among protégés, successful peers and staff members from the Academic Advancement Center.

In addition to providing funds for enriching the course, the FirstBank gift will provide for scholarships to be distributed annually to the most involved mentor and protégé. In future years, the gift will support other Academic Achievement Center priorities.

The remaining $5,000 from the FirstBank Community Fund will be used to establish the FirstBank Pending Endowment Fund. The fund will, with further contributions, grow to become a true endowment within five years. FirstBanks of Colorado, Colorado State University and the Colorado State University Foundation will determine how the endowment fund will be used.

"Our commitment to Colorado State students is an investment in the future of our state," said Patrick Brady, president of FirstBank of Northern Colorado. "We’re pleased to support a program which provides students with tools to overcome barriers and to grow as successful scholars and community members."

FirstBank has supported Colorado State University since its 1993 grand opening in Fort Collins. Past gifts have benefited the university’s Pre-High School Institute, First Generation Scholarship Program and Students First Scholarship Initiative.

FirstBank Holding Company of Colorado is the largest locally owned banking organization in the state. Headquartered in Lakewood, Colo., FirstBank reported holding company assets totaling $5.4 billion and deposits totaling $4.9 billion as of Sept. 30, 2001. FirstBank is unique in that a majority of its stock is owned by management and employees.

The Academic Advancement Center was established as part of a Congressional initiative designed to help low-income and first generation Americans enter and graduate from college. The initiative created five types of TRIO programs to serve students across the country from middle school through graduate school. The Academic Advancement Center has been funded by the U.S. Department of Education and Colorado State University since 1979. Colorado State is the only higher education institution in the state that serves students through all five TRIO programs.