Grant to Support First-Generation Success

COCC awarded $210k grant to further existing programs, increase efforts

Central Oregon Community College (COCC) has received a $210,570, two-year “First-Generation Student Success Grant” from Oregon’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC), funds that will be directed at Latinx, Native American and Afrocentric scholarships, help support the staffing and structure of existing first-generation programs, and create an Afrocentric student program coordinator position. The grant period is scheduled to begin on July 1.

“We’re beyond excited to have this funding,” said Christy Walker, COCC’s director of diversity and inclusion. “It will greatly support the college’s commitment to building an inclusive and welcoming learning environment, one focused on equity for our students.”

The financial boost will enable the college to build on its successful first-generation programs, such as its college-prep and high school mentorship offerings for underserved populations. Key projects include college preparation and cultural classes at regional high schools and one-week summer symposiums at the Bend campus, where Latinx and Native American high school students can earn college credit and gain a feel for the college experience. The grant will allow two part-time positions to increase hours and help cover the costs of summer symposium participation for many students.

“In part because of these programs, the COCC Native American student population has increased 20% and the Latinx student population has increased by 42% over the past decade, even though the overall COCC student population has declined,” said Walker.

Notably, COCC data demonstrates that the programs have led to a 98% high school graduation rate for students participating in the programs, a rate that surpasses Oregon’s graduation rate for Latinx and Native American students. Approximately 76% of students in the high school college preparation programs go on to college, Walker said, with many choosing to attend COCC.

“Student success in these programs continues to grow and we believe that initiating an Afrocentric program will produce similar results,” she added. The funds will also create scholarship opportunities for current students who have attended COCC’s college-prep programs and future members of COCC’s first-generation programs.

“We’re extremely proud of our first-generation programs, and how students have made tremendous strides because of them,” said Laurie Chesley, president of COCC. “More than ever, these students will have our support, thanks to this crucial state assistance.”

According to estimates from a 2019 U.S. Census Bureau dataset, 8.1% of Deschutes County’s population, 7.8% of Crook County’s population and 20.2% of Jefferson County’s population identified as Hispanic or Latino. The same dataset found that Native Americans comprised 1.1%, 1.7% and 18.8% of the populations in Deschutes, Crook and Jefferson counties, respectively.

For more information, contact Christy Walker, director of diversity and inclusion, at 541-383-7412 or

Image: Students attending the Ganas summer symposium for Latinx high schoolers at the Bend campus.

Ganas summer symposium