Empowering First-Generation College Students for Workplace Success

What is the Need?

First-generation college students have an acute dropout rate of 30%. This is 3 times the dropout rate of students whose parents graduated from college, according to How to Help More College Students Graduate (Dynarski 2016)A top reason for their high dropout rate is the lack of advice and support. Navigating a complicated college culture can be difficult and overwhelming. A critical lack of financial resources means it takes first-generation college students longer to graduate; this leads to higher tuition costs and student debt. A Stanford University study found that coached students are more likely to stay in college and graduate. Our Non-profit programs empower first-generation college students to graduate, excel in the workplace, and exceed their career aspirations.


The Dropout Crisis:

The United States is facing a college dropout crisis. This crisis disproportionately affects first-generation college students who are the first in their family to go to college. These students are trailblazers who seek higher levels of education than their parents, grandparents, or caregivers. The dropout rate among first-generation students is largely due to the lack of advice and support. First-generation college students also face financial challenges and disadvantages, such as a lower sense of belonging on campus and being afraid to ask for help. Image Impact was founded because of these compelling reasons. These startling statistics are a call to action:

24 percent of the undergraduate population, or 4.5 million college students are low-income, first-generation students.

• The dropout rate of first-generation students is three times higher than students whose parents have graduated from college.

• After six years, only 11 percent of low-income, first-generation students earn bachelor’s degrees.

Why Getting  A Degree Matters

By 2020, 65 percent of all U.S. jobs will require postsecondary education  and training beyond high school.  Education pays: earning a bachelor’s degree means higher earnings and lower unemployment.

Without a college degree, children of low-income parents are at risk of becoming low-income adults 

Public College Challenges 
Research shows that 76% of first-generation students attend public institutions. Overburdened career services often do not have the time to provide first-generation students with personalized attention. For example, at City University of New York (CUNY) John Jay College, all students receive 15 minutes of resume support at career services. This is clearly not enough time to perfect a resume. Existing campus programs typically offer academic basics, such as writing help, time management, study skills, remedial coursework, and selecting a major.

 College Students With Disabilities
Low income, first-generation students are more likely to have a disability than advantaged peers. Students with disabilities and Veterans are enrolling in college at rates higher than ever before. The advocacy group CUNY Coalition for Students with Disabilities calculated that more than 9,000 students with disabilities are currently enrolled at CUNY campuses.

The Benefits of Mentoring
According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), “A mentor is a person who through support, counsel, friendship, reinforcement and constructive example helps another person, usually a young person, to reach his or her work and life goals. Mentoring relationships provide valuable support to young people, especially those with disabilities, by offering…effective role models for leadership, interpersonal and problem-solving skills.” ODEP cites these benefits of mentoring:

  • Improved academic performance
  • Increased attendance rates
  • Improved academic performance
  • Increased attendance rates
  • Better attitudes about school
  • Higher college enrollment rates and higher educational aspirations
  • Enhanced self-esteem and self-confidence
  • Improved behavior, both at home and at school
  • Stronger relationships with parents, teachers and peers
  • Improved interpersonal skills
  • First-hand exposure to the workplace
  • Increased career awareness and ability to make educational choices
  • Decreased likelihood of dropping out of school
  • Decreased likelihood of initiating drug and alcohol use

Competencies For Our Mentors:

  • Developing others by planning effective experiences related to current and future jobs
  • Empathy
  • Integrity
  • Interpersonal Sensitivity
  • Listening
  • Resilience
  • Vision

Core Values: Our core values inspire our Vision to powerfully impact the careers of first-generation college students by preparing them to succeed in the workplace. These values shape our volunteer community:

Leadership: We develop future leaders who will achieve a real impact in our society.

Professional Growth through Education: We maximize hiring potential and career-advancement through continuous learning.

Access = Opportunity: We bridge the opportunity gap for workplaces seeking access to committed talent.

Leadership Team: Image Impact is all volunteer led. We are a dedicated community of over 50 volunteers. Many board members and volunteers are the first in their family to graduate college and are active in disability communities. We know the challenges of navigating college and reaching graduation first-hand. Team members have earned degrees in higher education; are leaders in their fields, and are accomplished professionals. Their commitment to the mission of Image Impact is unwavering: 100% of board members give generously to support our work. A strategic plan was recently completed for the organization. 

Who We Are

Image Impact’s mission is to mentor first-generation students to remain in college. Our programs get first-generation students across the finish line to graduation.  Image Impact is a New York City based organization, established in June 2015 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit. Providing career training for persons with disabilities is a key part of our exempt purpose.  We are committed to providing colleges with programs that support college completion and enhance student job placement rates.  We prepare first-generation college students, especially those living with disabilities, to enter the workforce.  Mentoring 4 Impact concentrates on the ABC’s of Image: Appearance, Behavior, and Communication. 


The expertise and diversity of our Board of Directors enables our Non-profit 501(c)(3) to make a measurable impact. Meet the people behind Image Impact International.  Get involved and contact us at volunteer@imageimpact.org.