Roadtrip Nation and the College Board Conclude Cross-Country Excursion Empowering First-Generation College Students

Students Spoke with Prominent Leaders Around the Country Including Arne Duncan and John Legend, Footage to Air on PBS Spring 2015

Costa Mesa, Calif. — Roadtrip Nation, a career exploration organization based in Southern California, and the College Board, a mission-driven not-for-profit organization that connects students to college success and opportunity, conclude on August 9th a five-week national road trip, dubbed the “First-Gen Roadtrip” in which four first generation college students from around the country chatted with diverse leaders, many of whom were also the first in their families to receive a college degree.

The student “roadtrippers” flew into California to begin the adventure on Roadtrip Nation’s iconic RV, most embarking on an airplane for the very first time. Jennifer Rogers came from Vancleave, Mississippi, where she is currently attending Mississippi State University, putting herself through college. Johnathan Allen is from Winter Haven, Florida, and is a sophomore at the University of Central Florida. Jasmine Johnson, a resident of Effingham, South Carolina, is attending the University of South Carolina, Columbia campus. Felipe Hernandez, from Paramount, California, is the first in his family, and apartment complex, to pursue higher education. He recently graduated from the University of California, Irvine.

A broad range of leaders from around the country met with the students and shared personal insight and inspiration, pushing them to continue with their academic and professional goals. Several leaders that met with the students include CEO of AT&T Randall L. Stephenson, Executive Director of Teach for America, David Lopez, CEO of Starbucks Howard Schultz, and many more.

“The entire experience was truly transformational. I felt so honored to be able to receive advice from such inspirational leaders who have faced similar challenges. It has awakened me to realize that anything is possible,” roadtripper Johnathan Allen said regarding the journey.

Singer/Songwriter John Legend met with the students in New York, emphasizing the importance of never giving up, “Persistence and grit. Don't let the challenges that you face deter you from reaching your goals."

U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, encouraged the students in Washington D.C. to follow and focus on their passions, “Try and figure out over time what you would do every day because you love to do it.”

“Not only have I learned how vast our country is, I now recognize the many unique opportunities that are available within in. It’s just astonishing,” roadtripper Jasmine Johnson noted.

A trailer of the trip’s footage will released in October, and the PBS premiere will air in the spring of 2015. Highlights from interviews conducted during the trip will also be housed on a specific hub page within Roadtrip Nation’s online video library to showcase the life stories of first-generation professionals and the advice they have to pass on to today’s youth.

Roadtrip Nation and the College Board, through the road trip and TV special, aim to empower and inspire first-generation students to go on to college and pursue a career reflective of their interests by connecting them with first-generation leaders who were able to overcome obstacles and achieve not only college degrees but also successful careers.

“Our resources provide an additional layer of support to help students discover and define their own roads in life. By speaking with leaders to learn how they got to where they are today, young students and job seekers alike are able to gain rare knowledge,” says Mike Marriner, cofounder of Roadtrip Nation. “We’re proud to work with the College Board to continue this mission and expose first-generation college students to the many opportunities available to them that they previously might not have even known existed.” 

The vision for the project dovetails with the College Board’s Access to Opportunity ™ program, which works to break down the unique barriers faced by low-income, first-generation, and underrepresented students and propel them into the opportunities they have earned.

“Our efforts focus on addressing the unique challenges that low-income, first-generation, and underrepresented students face through evidence-based, scalable programs,” said Steve Colón, the College Board’s vice president of Access to Opportunity. “Partnering with Roadtrip Nation on this unique and powerful project will give viewers a chance to hear directly from students about a topic that is relevant to so many others across the country. This work can make a real difference in driving measurable outcomes for students.”

The life advice that interviewees shared will be accessible to thousands of students through Roadtrip Nation’s career exploration curriculum and multimedia resources.  Behind-the-scenes content and additional footage are also accessible on the College Board’s and Roadtrip Nation’s social media channels.  

About Roadtrip Nation
Roadtrip Nation creates innovative career exploration resources designed to help young people learn about themselves and different life pathways. Through popular books, a long-running documentary TV series, and educational curricula, Roadtrip Nation empowers students to explore their passions, speak with real-world professionals, and build meaningful lives around what they love.

For more information, visit roadtripnation.com and roadtripnation.org.