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First Generation Initiative (FGI)

Supporting First-Generation Students

First Generation Initiative (FGI) Scholars are the first generation in their family to pursue a four-year degree. They are trailblazers, who shatter an intergenerational cycle of poverty. For many first-gens have, college seems like it is something they can only dream of, but programs like FGI and the FGI Scholarship can help, due the generous philanthropy of benefactors. Without the financial burden, these first-generation college students are able to solely focus on their education and achieving their dreams. What’s more is this mission-inspired initiative goes beyond college access and provides embedded supports to ensure student satisfaction, success, retention, and completion. In fact, FGI Scholars’ graduation rate is 26.2% higher than the national average for private colleges and universities (U.S. Department of Education).

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Preparing Students for College and Supporting Them Once They Arrive

The program serves first-gen students at two possible stages in their education–high school and college. Rising 9th – 12th grade students from partner schools have the opportunity to be selected by their schools to participate in the Countdown to College (C2C), an annual summer college prep program. During C2C, students engage in an enriching immersive experience and they demonstrate academic and social growth throughout. In addition to attending classes, these bright young minds accomplish establishing a routine, engaging in efficient time management, and they begin to craft their resumes. They learn the importance of teamwork, forging meaningful connections, and they even do a bit of networking with benefactors, staff, and faculty.

First-generation students need not participate in the C2C program to be eligible to apply for college admission to Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota and the FGI Scholarship.

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Learn more about Countdown to College

About the First Generation Initiative (FGI)

Brother William Mann founded the First Generation Initiative (FGI) in 2010 to ensure first-generation college students had equal opportunity for a college education, without the financial burden, and that they had the necessary resources to help them navigate the college experience. To be a first-generation college student means that neither parent / guardian completed a four-year college degree.

FGI Scholars: 2022-23 Academic Year

For more information about the First Generation Initiative or the FGI Scholarship, contact:

Dr. Jennifer Hanifl, Director of First Generation Initiative, at