For thousands of first generation college students, the ability to pursue a higher education provides a world of opportunity and life changing experiences. At West Virginia University, many of those students will find they share something in common with the man at the top, and will soon have a special opportunity to share their experiences with him.

WVU President Mike Garrison, a first generation student himself, has invited more than 200 such students to a special breakfast Thursday, Oct. 18.

The event provides a special occasion for those students and Garrison to share their experiences and discuss the many opportunities that a higher education can provide.

I have so much respect for these students and their amazing backgrounds,said Garrison.I want to hear their stories. I can tell them first hand that at WVU , anything is possible.

The students attending the breakfast are all enrolled in the federally operated TRIO program, which funds the Student Support Services, McNair Scholars and recently formed Upward Bound programs on the WVU campus. Additionally administrators and coordinators from the three programs will be in attendance.

The programs provide a wealth of support and resources for first generation college students, who often experience unique challenges.

First generation students are often overcoming social, cultural, economic or academic obstacles in their lifesaid Copenhaver-Bailey.Although their families can be very supportive, since they have not experienced University life themselves, they cant always understand or empathize with what their student is encountering. Our programs can provide additional academic, financial, social and emotional support for these students.

At WVU , almost one in five students from last falls freshman class and over 20 percent of freshmen who are state residents are first-generation students.

Student Support Services supports 200 first generation students on campus with tutoring, study groups, academic advising and social events. The McNair Scholars program supports and encourages first generation students with a financial need and graduate students from underrepresented groups. The Upward Bound program will assist high school students through the college admissions and entrance process.

Copenhaver-Bailey added that the event at Blaney House will highlight the efforts of the students and provide them with a close-to-home example of success.

This is an incredible group of students and they are thrilled about this event,she said.With President Garrisons background and the success he has attained, I think its a wonderful show of support and encouragement for the students, and illustrates to them that they can achieve their dreams.