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Helping First-Generation College Students Thrive

More than 20 years ago, Jacki Rodriguez was part of the University of Memphis’ First Scholars® Program, which serves first-generation college students. Today, Rodriguez serves as director of that very program—propelling students to academic and career success.

Regions Bank in Memphis supports Rodriguez’s work by funding scholarships for four First Scholars® each year. “Access to a college education is transformational for first-generation students,” said David May, commercial banking regional executive and market executive for Regions Bank in Memphis. “Awarding scholarships benefitting low- and moderate-income students aligns with Regions’ strategic community priority to support education.”

Not only does this program benefit students academically, it aids them in their personal lives. “Beyond what’s going on in class, we look at what’s going on at home,” Rodriguez said. “Many of our students are working 30 hours a week to help support their families. Many also take on a parental role with younger siblings by providing childcare and helping them with schoolwork because their parents are working. Our students face a lot of financial pressures.”

To help reduce that pressure, Regions Bank associates teach financial education classes like Banking Basics for Students and Reality Check, two free modules from the bank’s Next Step curriculum. “Investing in the First Scholars® Program demonstrates our commitment to changing the lives of students and families right here in our Memphis community”, said May. 

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