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Challenger Program provides help for first-gen students

Students studying at the Challenger Program Lounge. The program guides students through all the struggles that college life brings. | Hadrian Barbosa/The Cougar

Students studying at the Challenger Program Lounge. The program guides students through all the struggles that college life brings. | Hadrian Barbosa/The Cougar


Low-income or first-generation college students may struggle to adapt to the stresses of daily life in college. Difficulties with finances or maintaining their GPAs can leave students grappling to handle the excessive stress.

Monica Floyd, the director of the Challenger Program at UH, provides assistance and support for low-income and first-generation students who may be having a hard time dealing with stressful situations with finances and on campus.

The program currently has an enrollment of 215 students.

“The Challenger Program is a program that’s designed to assist first-generation college students with matriculating through college and graduating,” Floyd said. “Our ultimate goal is to make sure they end up being the first in their family to earn a college degree.”

The Challenger Program serves as a lifeline for students who feel like they have been tossed in an ocean and nobody was around to see if they would sink or swim, Floyd said. All kinds of services are provided, from financial aid to simply having a place to hang out for those who don’t feel comfortable at the University yet.

“It’s like a holistic approach to the student instead of just focusing in on the academics,” Floyd said. “I think the thing that students love the most is priority registration, the second is financial aid.”

Floyd and the Challenger Program offer more than just a place to hang out and help with financial aid. Floyd provides her own assistance by providing secondary advising, editing student essays, offering help with taxes, tutoring and academic monitoring.

After every test, Floyd sends a letter asking a student’s professor how the student is doing. If anything negative comes back from the professor, she contacts the student so any issues can be resolved.

“There are students who came in with a (very low) GPA and still graduated from college with honors,” Floyd said. “Every student is so different that you have to take away that blanket format of approaching a student and individually start wherever that student is.”

Floyd also does community service and trips with the students. Students from the Challenger Program traveled to Six Flags Fiesta Texas last year and are planning on another trip this year. The program receives funding that they can use for this trip and for other resources under the Student Success Services.

“Things aren’t perfect right now, but things would’ve been way worse if I didn’t find out about this program,” communications freshman Brian Reyes said. “It’s good having an anchor to just hold on to if you have a question or need counseling on stuff.”

Reyes was first introduced to the program through another student he met at orientation. After learning the Challenger Program offered scholarships and financial aid advice, he went online and filled out the application to join.

For students considering the Challenger Program, Reyes recommends joining.

“It’s good support to keep you accountable and to have good advice available,” Reyes said.


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