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Coaching First-Generation Students Through College

One-third of college students are the first in their families to enroll in college. But few of them graduate within six years, according to the Department of Education.

One program is working to change that, one student at a time. Juma Ventures isn't just trying to get kids into college ... it's trying to get them through it.

Working in six U.S. cities, the nonprofit matches college coaches with first-generation students. Coaches' responsibilities change by the day, from helping with financial aid paperwork to explaining how office hours work.

"Sometimes I'm an academic counselor, sometimes I'm a cheerleader, sometimes I'm a shoulder to cry on," says Marisela Chevez, a college coach who works with 25 students a week. "Sometimes I'm just that person that keeps pushing them to do more and more."

When Juma Ventures began in 1993, it was meant to help first-generation students raise money for school. But it quickly became clear that paying for college was just the first of many challenges these kids face.

"I only had the thought of going to college, I didn't really know what I had to do," says Jose Diaz, a freshman at California State University, East Bay. "There's so many steps, so many things you had to turn in, you had to know about."

Juma Ventures started its coaching program only a few years ago, so it's hard to know how successful it's been. But, for students like Diaz, having a college coach has been a huge help toward making his diploma dream a reality.

Copyright 2014 KPBS Radio

Claire Trageser and Aly Seidel
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