Bob Barreto ’79 and his brother, Rich, were first-generation Clemson students in a  time when formal resources for first-generation students were not available.

By: Alumni Association

Seventeen percent of Clemson’s Fall 2012 freshman class (and 32 percent of incoming transfer students) are first-generation students — they are the first students in their immediate family to attend a four-year college or university. While these families are eager and prepared to provide support to their child, some may be less prepared to offer advice and experience because they are unfamiliar with many of the adjustments required for a successful transition from high school.

Bob Barreto and his brother, Rich, were first-generation Clemson students. Bob studied administrative management and graduated in 1979, a time when formal resources for first-generation students were not available. He admits that starting college was an adjustment with “the constant challenge of not knowing what to expect.”

Clemson wants to improve first-generation students’ chances of success in both their initial transition and through their Clemson career. Six years ago, the University began the FIRST Program, which helps first-generation college freshmen and transfer students adjust to the college experience by offering a variety of opportunities and resources, from academic support to social activities.

“Clemson’s FIRST Program provides these students with the resources and guidance they need to successfully adapt to their new surroundings and make the most of the experience,” Barreto said.

Unfortunately, the National Science Foundation’s funding for this program is quickly coming to an end. For Barreto, helping students walk through the college process successfully is why he is taking the role as Advisory Board Chairman and personally supporting the FIRST Program.

By raising funds for the Clemson FIRST Program, Barreto aims to continue the availability of valuable resources to the ‘first’ students enrolled in the program. These funds will ensure that the resources, guidance and advice these students need will be available.

The Barreto family (from left): Katie, Bobby, Bob '79 and Karen. During recent visits to campus, Barreto met many of the students who benefit from the program.

“After sharing some experiences with the students, and looking back at my own,” Barreto said, “my family and I thought it would be a shame if the program ended due to a lack of funding when there are so many first-generation students that have benefited from their years at Clemson.”

Because of his education and experiences when he was a student at Clemson, Barreto was prepared to lead in the business world. His career took him across the country working with Fortune 500 Companies such as Waste Management and Super Valu Stores in business development and financial roles. In 1992, he took his experience with quickly growing organizations to Iron Mountain Records Management where he filled various roles in operations, business development, and mergers and acquisitions. His final stop was in Washington, D.C., as an executive vice president and director of mergers and acquisitions.

In 2004, Barreto relocated to Greenville to start his “retirement job,” which involves taking the knowledge and expertise he gained through the years to companies in need of comprehensive growth strategies as the founder and managing partner of The Norman Resource Group. He also currently serves as the CEO of GBS Building Supply, a regional lumber and building supply company and one of the largest privately held companies in South Carolina. Barreto and his wife, Karen, also own a real estate company that develops housing solutions in college environments, and a company that provides in-home services to seniors in  North and South Carolina. They have two children: Bobby, a Clemson senior studying management with an entrepreneurial emphasis, and Katie, a high school senior with her sights set on being a Tiger.

Now, it’s your time to help Clemson find where our first-generation students are now. Prior to 2006, the University did not keep any statistics regarding first-generation status. It would be very valuable to retrospectively collect data and experiences from alumni who were in the first generation of their families to attend college. Are you a First? Would you like to share your story with the Clemson Alumni Association? We want to hear it.

Tell us your story.

If you were a first-generation graduate, please take a moment to tell us your story. Fill out the short form found here, and we’ll send you a free alumni car decal and a FIRST pin. Go Tigers!