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Katja Urbatsch

Katja Urbatsch

From a webpage to the biggest network of

First Generation University Students in Germany

Contrary to the commonly held belief that social mobility is a hallmark of modern society, children in Germany with non-academic parents are more than three times less likely to attend university compared to their peers with university graduate parents. Therefore, in May 2008 the German First Generation University Student Katja Urbatsch founded the webpage arbeiterkind.de (“working class kid”) in order to encourage high school students to become First Generation College Students and to support them on their way to their successful degree.

Thanks to the surprisingly large media attention, the webpage has developed to become the only and biggest German Network of current and former First Generation University students with nationwide 3.000 members and volunteers who are engaged in 80 local groups. Also, over 17,000 people use the website every month.

The initiative tackles many of the problems facing German higher education in a systematic manner. First, by dubbing youth with non-academic parents as “Arbeiterkind”, it gives them a positive identity within society. Through Arbeiterkind.de, children with non-studied parents become aware of the specific problems they face related to their social background, and as they meet peers confronting similar chal-lenges, they gain confidence and self encouragement. Using the label Arbeiterkind, also helped the organization garner national attention, creating public awareness about an often unacknowledged yet systematic discrimination. Second, arbeiterkind.de helps to overcome the problem of a lack of accessible, comprehensible in-formation about attending university through two approaches: a website and a mentorship program. The organization’s website provides all the information needed for a successful start at university with content specially tailored to the needs of children with non-studied parents, and hands on advice about financial support options, career prospects, organizing and planning as well as exam preparation. In addition to the website, Arbeiterkind.de volunteering mentors go to schools and conduct information sessions to encourage and inform the pupils about the help they can offer. These mentors also support high school students that are interested in studying by providing them with arguments to overcome the disempowerment they face at home by guiding them through the maze of information, and helping them complete scholarship offers and applications.

http://www.arbeiterkind.de/

(update 2013-01-29)