Kaukauna High School alum creates program for first-generation college students

Published: Apr. 29, 2021 at 6:56 PM CDT
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KAUKAUNA, Wis. (WBAY) - Kaukauna high school alum, Molly Ruffing, is being honored for trying to create a more inclusive community. Ruffing is a junior at Lawrence University and created her “First of Many” program that rolled out for the first time in January 2021 at Kaukauna High School. Ruffing says she wanted to create a program that helps eliminate obstacles that first-generation students face during the college application process as she did as a first-generation student herself.

The initiative matches first-generation college students at Lawrence University with potential first-generation students in their junior year at Kaukauna High School. Ruffing says six mentors and five mentees met on zoom for eight weeks to discuss topics ranging from financial aid, filling out FAFSA forms, applying for scholarships, and applying to colleges.

“Each week was something different, so we started first by just talking about why college, like why are you interested in attending college because that makes sense to start there. Then we talked about admissions and what it would be like to go on a tour, and financial aid was a big one,” says Ruffing.

“I think it was really neat to see the students and just their confidence about the entire process just increase. And I think we’ll see kids who are a little more assertive about their needs and the things they need to get done,” says Matt Binsfeld, Kaukauna High School Counselor and Football Coach.

The First of Many program won Lawrence University’s 2021 Community Partner Diversity and Inclusion Champion Award. This award is given annually to recognize individuals and groups who have demonstrated achievement in promoting diversity and inclusion.

“It’s kind of a sign that we’re working towards including voices that aren’t always heard and providing resources to students who aren’t getting the resources they may need,” Ruffing explained.

The First of Many program is designed to encourage students to attend any four-year college that they desire.

“One of the neat things about the program is that the students at Lawrence were really excited to give back and they remember being in those same kinds of situations, and I think it was something that was good for both sides of the equation,” says Binsfeld.

Ruffing says she hopes the program will continue for years to come. Kaukauna High School says they definitely want to continue with the program, doing it more effectively by finding more eligible students who want to participate next year.

A virtual ceremony is being held on Tuesday, May 25, to celebrate Molly’s award-winning program and her work with students and staff at Kaukauna High School.

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