Jada Smack '19 on Her Experience as a First-Generation College Student

Jada Smack '19

Jada Smack '19 studies in her dorm room. (Avi Wolfman-Arent, NewsWorks/WHYY)

Over the past academic year, WHYY/Newsworks profiled Jada Smack ’19, of Millsboro, Del., in a series on students who are the first in their families to go to college. Faced with the daunting statistic that only 11 percent of low income, first-generation college students earn a bachelor’s degree within six years of enrolling in higher education, the series sought to spotlight the various challenges and victories of area students.

Some of the challenges the students faced included homesickness, lack of financial resources, family achievement guilt, and feeling isolated and out of place. Throughout the year, there were several times when Smack thought to herself, “[People] are going to look at me and be like, ‘Oh my God, that person doesn’t belong here.'"

But, as noted in the series conclusion, Smack adapted well to campus life:

"She joined clubs, managed the basketball team, and developed a network of close friends. Early in the year, Smack felt pulled toward her home town, making the 2-hour trek home more often than even she’d expected.

"But as her friend circle grew and her campus activities multiplied, she grew more comfortable at Swarthmore. When the school year ended, she decided to spend the summer on campus instead of returning to her hometown."

Indeed, Smack is working this summer as a Chester Community Fellow, one of the paid internship programs run by the College's Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility. At the city's Nia Center, she works with youth on art programs and other projects.

Learn more about Smack's experiences in part one, fourfivesix, and the conclusion of the series.