Welcome to "First to Finish College"

September 23, 2013

A network to inform and inspire first-generation college students and those helping them succeed.

Through the First to Finish College project, Demos and SparkAction are building and strengthening connections between experts working to help first-generation college students succeed. The First to Finish College blog covers the challenges facing first-generation students and promotes solutions and innovations that are emerging to help them finish school and launch successful careers. The blog includes original and curated content by project staff, first-generation students and professionals working in the field.

More from the blog's creators:

Higher education is not a perfect system. Yet obtaining a postsecondary degree or credential is a critical step in having options in life and some control over your future. College attainment is closely linked to better access to healthcare, jobs, economic mobility and financial stability. This makes completing college a worthwhile goal.

Pursuing a college degree is a step-by-step process. It starts and ends with an individual student’s hard work and resilience, in equal measure. But no one completes college without help. The guidance and support of others, whether they are family, friends, mentors, counselors or teachers, is absolutely necessary.

With the First to Finish College blog we want to draw attention to the things that lead to college success and life options.  Our goal is to provide information, examples, analysis, and inspiration to anyone who cares about completing college or helping others do so. How this plays out will differ day to day, just like any journey worth undertaking.

What we hope makes First to Finish College stand out is our ability to build bridges—bridges between academic research and the real world, between educators and youth organizations, between policy and practice, and between students’ struggles and their successes.

We hope you'll join us and share your story.

Jennifer Wheary, Founder
Jennifer is a senior fellow at Demos, a national policy organization. She is a first-generation college graduate with a BS from Cornell University and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Education from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.


Caitlin Johnson, Founder
Caitlin is co-founder and managing editor of SparkAction. As a writer and journalist, Caitlin is committed to telling stories that showcase the power and resilience of young people taking action and finding solutions. Caitlin holds an MFA in fiction writing from the University of Virginia.


Alleen BarberAlleen Barber, Managing Editor
Alleen Barber is a former op-ed editor and deputy editorial page editor for Newsday. She attended Haverford College and holds an MA in sociology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Jennifer Wheary, Caitlin Johnson and Allen Barber