CHANCE Program plans First-Generation Student Conference 

As NIU celebrates the 50th anniversary of the McKinley “Deacon” Davis CHANCE Program, officials are preparing for a First-Generation Student Conference – unique in the state – to both pay tribute to five decades of commitment to equal access to higher education and to promote the importance of carrying that legacy into the future.

The First-Generation Student Success Conference will take place at the DeKalb and Naperville campuses Nov. 8 -10, and organizers are currently seeking submissions for presentations and programs during the three-day event. On Thursday, Nov. 8, current CHANCE students will serve as facilitators for a “college bound” themed day of activities for peers from their high schools. These workshops will take place on the NIU campus.

“This day is all about the power of the peer group, as high school students will be able to spend a full day gaining knowledge and tools about what they need to do to attend college, but they’ll be hearing this all firsthand from students who graduated from their high schools and are enrolled at NIU now,” said Denise Hayman, director of the McKinley “Deacon” Davis CHANCE Program.

On Friday, Nov. 9, the conference will take place at the NIU Naperville campus, and those working with first-generation college students from around the state are invited to a day of programs.

“We want people who work with first-generation students to attend the conference and share best practices and approaches they know that have been very beneficial,” Hayman explained.

On Saturday, Nov. 10, the 50th anniversary of the CHANCE Program at NIU will be celebrated during a dinner and program at the DeKalb campus.

In its five decades on campus, the CHANCE Program has graduated more than 10,000 students and is regarded as unique in the state in its efforts and success in offering access to higher education. The program was created from the vision of former NIU President Rhoten Smith, a champion of equal opportunity and social justice and McKinley “Deacon” Davis, once a Harlem Globetrotter.

Hayman said that in its first year, the program admitted 50 students. Today, it enrolls between 400 and 500 students per year, and receives about 4,700 applications each year.

“NIU has really committed to this program,” she said. “And it’s a model program in that our primary priority is to work with students the first year. I think it’s a model in the sense that CHANCE counselors work hard to assist the first-year CHANCE students transition from high school to college.”

All graduate students, entry-, mid- and senior-level professionals working with first-generation students are encouraged to submit a program proposal abstract to share professional knowledge and promising practices at the CHANCE conference.

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