America Needs You (ANY) and Aspire Institute share in the mission to equip and enrich low-income, first-generation college students with the skills and confidence to achieve their economic and personal potential. ANY operates in the U.S. while Aspire Institute serves students globally; together, our organizations empower these young leaders to reach their full potential and impact their communities.
“We are excited to collaborate with Aspire Institute because our missions are so aligned,” Leah Hegeholz, FirstGenU Director at ANY, said.
FirstGenU, ANY’s fully virtual program, and the Aspire Leaders Program understand the power of connections and networking. Through an online curriculum, FirstGenU, students in the United States access job search, leadership skills, and opportunities for connecting with peers, FirstGenU staff, and volunteers.
“They are joining a community of first-generation students across the country who are committed to career success,” Hegeholz said.
This belief in the importance of leveraging community wisdom and networking aligns well with Aspire Institute’s mission and the goals of the Aspire Leaders Program (ALP). ALP brings together a global network of first-generation college students and recent graduates, world-class educators, and mentors.
Talent Exists Worldwide but an Opportunity Gap Remains
Both Aspire Institute and FirstGenU fill a critical gap. Beyond academics, low-income, first-generation college students benefit from exposure to professional networks, collaborative learning, and soft skills to prepare them for their next step.
“We know that the students we serve are talented, resilient, and resourceful; however, they often don’t have access to the same opportunities as their more privileged peers,” Hegeholz explained.
Aspire Institute witnesses the immense potential of these young adults to create waves of positive change as they dream bigger, draw inspiration from their newfound networks, and gain a greater sense of self-confidence. Collaborating with FirstGenU furthers the opportunities available to students to network both in the United States and globally to create impact within and beyond themselves.
“Both of our organizations exist to help students create bright futures for themselves, their families, and their communities,” Hegeholz said.
Inspiring First-Generation College Students
While Aspire Institute and FirstGenU aim to inspire young adults, we also feel inspired by these talented young leaders.
“Programs like FirstGenU and the Aspire Leaders Program are so important because they help students gain skills and experiences that are essential for career success, but that are not always emphasized in the classroom,” Hegeholz said. “Without programs like ours, students may feel overwhelmed or unsure of how to take the steps that will help them accomplish the goals they’ve set for themselves.”
Providing more opportunities and inspiration from others guides us all in accomplishing our goals, and talented youth around the world will be the leaders and inspiration for the next generation.
“My favorite part about working with first-generation students is hearing their stories,” Hegeholz shared. “Our students are proud of their identities and are determined to succeed for themselves and their communities. They inspire me each and every day!”
Leah Hegeholz from FirstGenU also shared her own advice for first-generation college students and young leaders finding their way.
“My advice for first-generation students or young adults as they find their passion and pursue their next step is to be curious and open-minded,” she said. “You never know when you’ll meet someone who ends up making a big impact in your life so make a habit of saying yes to opportunities that are presented to you!”