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Feb 20, 2013 7:56 PM by Victoria Fregoso-Q2 News

First generation students at RMC recognized for accomplishments

BILLINGS-More than 60 Rocky Mountain College students are getting a little extra help to pursue their dreams. The Services for Academic Success program awarded scholarships to 57 students and 8 students were given travel awards to study abroad.

The scholarships and awards were handed out Wednesday afternoon during the annual TRIO Day reception. Scholarship recipients had to be a first generation college student, come from a low income family, or have a disability.

The awards and scholarships total $57,000, which is the largest amount of money the program has ever given out.

Coming from a low income family, college might not be an option. And when no one else in your family has a degree, higher education might not be a priority.

Students in the Services for Academic Success Program at Rocky Mountain College are going up against the odds. "There's a stigma that you go to college to learn to be a doctor or a teacher but I think it's more about following your passion. And my passion lies in the arts. That's something that I really wanted to do and I wanted to further my education through college," said RMC SAS student Shane McClurg.

"When I came into high school, I wanted to be successful and wanted to make sure I had a stable financial background for my kids when they grow up," said freshman Marissa Jones-Flaget.

About 42-percent of the student population at Rocky are the first in their families to attend college. 35-percent come from a low income background. But that doesn't stop determined students from going after their degree.

18-year-old Marissa Jones-Flaget is going to school full time and works five jobs. "I do have several majors and I'm also paying for college single handed and so for a lot of students now-a-days, they get a lot of outside help so I actually have just pushed myself to apply for as many scholarships as possible."

For Shane and his family, paying off medical bills competes with paying for college tuition. "When I was younger, I had leukemia cancer and so we've always been struggling with these hospital bills."

From the young age of five, until he turned nine, Shane spent most of his time at the Children's Hospital of Denver. Despite this financial setback, Shane believes money shouldn't stand in the way of anyone's dreams. "Just to miss such an amazing opportunity because of stupid like money, is just ridiculous," he said.

These students hope to show other first generation students, the battle is worth the struggle. "Being able to know that I have kind of influenced people to want to achieve a little more is awesome," Marissa said.

According to Jane Van Dyk, Associate Vice President and Director of the SAS program at Rocky, the graduation rate for students in the program is 55-percent.

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