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At-risk students beat the odds

Living together in specialized housing helps first-generation students learn to navigate UC

by Dawn Fuller

N’deye Ba is accustomed to achieving what many would consider the impossible. Originally from Senegal, Africa, her parents made tough decisions and sacrifices so that she and her siblings would have a better life than they did.

The agreeable alumna has taken that path one step further. N’deye, A&S ‘13, has the distinction of being the first student to graduate after living in the Gen-1 Theme House, located across Clifton Avenue from campus in Stratford Heights.

Since opening in 2008, the house has served more than 100 first-generation, Pell-grant-eligible students. Because those students are considered at high risk for dropping out, UC’s Gen-1 house provides a 24/7 structured living and learning environment plus support services, such as mentoring, tutoring, professional counseling and monitoring of academic performance and social activities.

When N’deye (pronounced Nay) was a young girl, her parents moved to the U.S. to pursue the dream of a better life for the family, while she and her younger siblings stayed behind with their grandparents in Africa. The reunited family eventually settled in Cincinnati when N’deye was 10 years old. Her first languages were French and Wolof, the native Senegal language, so she learned English while attending Cincinnati public schools.

Unfortunately, her route to college after high school seemed as confusing as her initial efforts to navigate a foreign land -- until she discovered UC’s Gen-1 house. “I had no idea what I was doing when I first got here, but the step-by-step process developed by the Gen-1 house helped me find who to talk with and where I needed to go,” she explains. “I even liked the curfew!”

Freshmen in the house must commit to earning a minimum GPA of 2.33 per academic semester and 2.50 GPA after completing their freshman year. Sophomores and juniors must commit to earning a 2.67 GPA per semester.

N’deye is using her education to pursue her dreams of heading a nonprofit organization. She earned her bachelor’s degrees in political science and international affairs in April. As she continues working on her master’s degree in political science at UC, she will serve as the resident graduate adviser for the Gen-1 house during the 2013-14 academic year.

“I really loved my UC experience. It was such a growing experience,” she says. “I have been able to do things that I never imagined I would be able to do, and I feel like I’ve really grown into a person that I’m proud of and that my family, especially my dad, can be proud of.

“For me, that’s the highlight, knowing that my family’s sacrifice did not go to waste.”

Donations and grants to the Gen-1 house support housing costs, meal plans and other services, such as N’deye’s service-learning trip to India last spring. She and her fellow students developed business models there for nonprofit organizations that rehabilitate women and girls rescued from the sex trade.

Donors, contributors to the Gen-1 House

Gifts and contributions through 6/30/2013
Charitable contributions $ 507,526

Red Star Supporters — $5,001+

  • Assistance League of Greater Cincinnati
  • Robert Bodenlos
  • Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Social Innovation Fund
  • CollegeBoard
  • John Cuppoletti and Danuta Malinowska
  • David Dillon
  • Carol Ann and Ralph Haile Jr., US Bank Foundation
  • Christian Holden
  • Insured Success
  • KeyBank Foundation
  • MJ93 Fund
  • Woodward Trust

Black Star Support — $1,000-$5,000

  • Margaret Archangel
  • Michele Bertaux and Bruno Zabaglio
  • Stephanie Cappel
  • Gannett
  • Carol Livingston
  • Judith Mause
  • Newspapers In Education/Cincinnati Enquirer
  • Michael Powell
  • Thomas Seddon
  • Robert Suess
  • Gregory Williams

White Star Supporters — up to $1,000

  • Tony Almaguer
  • Linda Arnest
  • Bryan Barrett
  • Juanita Bertaux
  • Melissa Bodner
  • Kathleen Bohlen
  • Sharon Boyle
  • Paula Breslin
  • Evelyn Brod
  • Lynn Callif
  • Gail Campbell
  • J.C. Cannon
  • Darlene Carter
  • Philip Cathey
  • Regina Christensen
  • Cincinnati Youth Collaborative
  • Jackie Clark
  • Karen Coleman
  • Corwyn Apparel
  • Brian and Latausha Cox
  • Mary Davis
  • Rita DeFlorville
  • Anthony Arsen Fuertes DelaRosa
  • Robert Dixon
  • Rolla Eich
  • Denise Ellis
  • Shelby Ellis
  • Bari Ewing
  • Mark Fields
  • Arlene Foster
  • Sandra Bowen Franz
  • Melanie Fulton
  • David and Pamela Ginsburg
  • Sharon and Andrew Glenn Jr.
  • Gary Grafe
  • Clarise Green
  • Jason Green
  • Leslie Greene
  • Russell and Julia Hairston
  • Adrian Hall
  • Tramell Harper and Monica Blackwell-Harper
  • Star Harris
  • Elizabeth Havens
  • Mary Havens
  • Todd Haydon
  • David Heck
  • Linda Herring
  • Denise Hewitt
  • Dorrien and Janice Hinsey
  • Linda Hoerst
  • Larry Horton
  • Denyse Hughes
  • Maurice and Patrina Hughes
  • Martha Hutton
  • Craig and Donita Jackson
  • C. Jude and Candis Johnson
  • Alicia Jones
  • Danielle Jones
  • Donald and Michelle Jones
  • Sanford Kahn
  • Joe Katenkamp
  • Kathryn Kennard
  • Alicia Kornowa
  • Ana Leonard
  • Daniel Majesky
  • Brigitte Marlo
  • Robin Martin
  • Christopher McCoy
  • William Joel McCray
  • Cheryl McDonald
  • Emily McGrath
  • Michele McKenney
  • Regina McKinney
  • Russell McMahon
  • Caroline Miller
  • Rebecca Mills
  • Megan Minton
  • Judith and James Mitchell Jr.
  • Margo Monahan
  • Deborah Moore
  • Emily Morgan
  • Patricia Neidhard
  • Jackie Nelson
  • Julia Nicholson
  • Diana Noelcke
  • Mary Norwood
  • Evajean O’Neal
  • Alison Owsley
  • Jeremy Patterson
  • Dana Pawlowicz
  • Marilyn Phipps
  • Barbara Pierce
  • Anne Pohl
  • Ronald Polley
  • Karen Ramos
  • Sha-Kim Ray
  • Josette Riep
  • Deborah Rieselman
  • Stacey Ritter
  • Brenda Robinson
  • H. Rod and Vikki Robinson
  • Sheila Rollinson
  • Pamela Rosfeld
  • Peggy Shannon-Baker
  • Eric Smith, MD
  • Maraskeshia Smith
  • Julie Steimle
  • Evelyn and Thomas Sten
  • Brandi Stewart
  • Joshua Stout
  • Alecia Trammer
  • Daniel Turner
  • Alicia Vassil
  • Brian Verkamp
  • Nelson Vincent
  • Richard Vogelsang Jr.
  • Jenell Walton
  • Steven Warden
  • Kathleen Weber
  • Jonathan Weller
  • William Wells III
  • Tangie Welton
  • Barbara Westendorf
  • Sandra Wetzel
  • Melissa Wilkerson
  • Constance Williams
  • Diana Wilson
  • Laurel Wilson
  • Julie Winslow
  • Eileen Yeoh
  • Lejla Zenjnilovic
  • Deborah Zorn