Founded in 2001, First Graduate's mission is to help young people finish high school and become the first in their families to graduate from college. We at First Graduate believe that a college degree is the best way to break the cycle of poverty within families, build a productive, educated workforce, and foster an engaged and active citizenry. To that end, we have built an effective college access program that serves 264 San Francisco-based, aspiring first generation students each year (currently 7th grade through the senior year of college) utilizing a high touch, long-term approach that is unique within the field. Our 10-year arc provides 300 academic contact hours each year and includes working with students, their families, teachers, and counselors though a unique case management system.
We enroll 30-40 rising seventh-graders annually and currently serve 264 students. We aim to equip aspiring first generation graduates with the tools, resources, opportunities and network necessary to be successful in college and beyond.
Core components of the program are: Academic instruction, tutoring and support through a rigorous 5-week Summer Session and 35-week School Year Session; high school and college counseling including standardized test preparation, application preparation and assistance, financial aid workshops, access to summer enrichment programs, and on-campus visits; parent engagement activities including multilingual parent workshops that address high school selection, college choices, eligibility requirements, application processes, and financial aid; mentoring with college-educated adults and older peers, role models who provide guidance through each program transition, insight into potential college and career pathways, and opportunities to participate in career exploration activities; case management is provided throughout the program.
First Graduate's strategy for success is two-fold. First, we make a long-term commitment to students, understanding that gaining access to college is not the final hurdle for first generation college students. We understand that a critical piece missing in most college access programs is that support ends with college acceptance, but needs to be maintained through college completion. Additionally, we have learned that it is critical to start working with students and their families earlier than most programs in order to ensure that they develop building blocks for success before the pressures of high school set in.
Secondly, our programming is specifically designed to address the needs of first generation college students. First Graduate's program model is a 10-year comprehensive set of services designed to help students: 1) Improve their academic skills and knowledge, 2) set long-term goals and high expectations for success, 3) develop decision-making and study skills, 4) expand their horizons and build cultural capital, and 5) support families through key decisions.