Spotlight Exclusives

Generation Hope: “Higher Together: The Impact of College Degree for Young Parents”

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Ana Vasquez, a first-generation college student, entered college to pursue a degree in nursing to support her two young boys. Facing stigma, isolation, and financial insecurity, she overcame these barriers to complete her education. With a degree and a new job, she finally got an apartment for her family at the age of 28. She credits Generation Hope’s Scholar Program with providing the support she needed to succeed while in college.

Generation Hope, through its Scholar Program, has provided direct wraparound services to student and teen parents to help them achieve economic mobility and mitigate systemic exclusion from education and jobs. Founded in 2010 by Nicole Lynn Lewis, social entrepreneur, author, and former teen parent, the organization seeks to center students and their families in their outreach work, collaborating with policy and education leaders to institute systemic change.

On Sept. 13, the organization released a new report, titled “Higher Together: The Impact of College Degree for Young Parents”, which shares the experiences of all of Generation Hope’s alumni (including Ana) and provides insights around the opportunities and life changes secured by student parents who completed their associate’s and bachelor’s degrees. Based on a survey of Generation Hope’s alumni over the last 12 years, the report finds that a college degree provides an overall positive impact to young families. For instance, while nearly 90 percent of respondents were earning under $30,000 annually at the time that they started college, the average salary for those who are now working full time is more than $60,000 annually.

On Sept. 22, Generation Hope hosted a webinar featuring key leaders who helped compile the report, as well as some alumni, who were able to share their experiences in Generation Hope’s Scholar Program and after completing their degrees.

Members of Generation Hope’s staff highlighted the diversity of the survey respondents. About 90 percent of student parents are single and unmarried, and about 70 percent identify as first generation. More than half of survey respondents are Black, 41 percent are Latinx, and 7 percent identified as either Asian, white, or multiracial. They also shared successes. “We found that about 80 percent of our graduates were employed full time, … and many of those who were not employed were… in graduate school or were working part time through graduate school,” said Caroline Griswold Short, Director of Programming.

Shortly after the survey methodology and key findings were explained, Dr. Monica Brown, secretary of Generation Hope’s board and Senior Vice President of Student Affairs at Montgomery College, moderated a panel of Scholar alumni. Dr. Brown asked the former student parents questions about the non-monetary benefits of a college degree, barriers they faced while pursuing their degrees, and systemic barriers they continue to face after graduation.

When asked on advice that education leaders and policymakers can follow to support student parents, Carla Rocha, another alumna, responded, “I think there needs to be additional insight on how to get students to become innovators. It’s great to be able to work for a company, but what would be better for some people is to start their own business.”

Lewis concluded the webinar, calling upon leaders to understand and apply the findings from the report. “In the report, you are going to find lessons and takeaways for both practitioners and policymakers, and we hope that you…look through those and really think [to] integrate these insights, data, voices, [and these] stories… into your work.”

Generation Hope’s report “Higher Together: The Impact of College Degree for Young Parents” can be accessed here. For more information on Generation Hope and its work supporting student parents, visit    

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