Our Newest Class of College Graduates!

Our Newest Class of College Graduates!

Landor Associates

We're excited to present First Graduate's newest class of college graduates!  Congrats to Jay, Brianda, Gaby, Patricia, Monique, Guilder, Yvette and Vicky for becoming the first in your families to earn a college degree. 

Jay Arellano
St. Mary’s College of California
Bachelor of Arts – Communications 

My name is Jay Arellano and I was born in San Francisco. I attended what was formerly Potrero Hill Middle School and was introduced to First Graduate by staff members who came to my school to talk about the importance of higher education. I attended The Bay School of San Francisco for high school and had the special opportunity to be part of its first graduating class in 2008. I was accepted to various colleges and universities around the country, but ultimately chose Saint Mary's College of California in Moraga, California. I’m excited to say that I’ve reached my goal of becoming the first in my family to graduate from college. Just a few weeks ago, I stepped on stage to accept my degree--a B.A. in communications. I am currently working on starting my own multi-entertainment company in San Francisco. 

Brianda Castro
University of California, Davis
Bachelor of Arts- Economics

The day I receive my college diploma will mark a milestone in my growth as a student and my growth as a person. I will remember my college days as some of the most painful, yet most joyous and rewarding. I learned about the rational agents in economic models and the methods and the challenges and issues that scholars of religion study. I will forever be grateful for the opportunity to become the first person in my family to graduate from college. Even though I was the one attending classes, I was only able to do so with all of your support. Thank you.

Gaby Gucho-Oliva
Tufts University
Bachelor of Arts - Economics 

I recently graduated from Tufts University with an Economics Major and a minor in Communications. The amazing part of going to college is being able to discover yourself and the person you want to become.  I was able to attend the college of my choice because of First Graduate. Before First Graduate, I did not have many role models around me who had completed college. However, once First Graduate came into my life and taught me the importance of going to college and the ability to take advantage of the opportunities it has to offer, there was no turning back. First Graduate not only become a resource, but they also worked with me as a family giving me support and life lessons along the way. They are my family. They were able to help bridge that gap of understanding between my parents and their now college student. They helped my parents be better able to cope with the college process and with having their youngest child be 3,000 miles away.  Going to college not only changed my life and my immediate family's life, but that of my entire family. All of my cousins and nephews are now expected to go to college as well. It has become something they all want to do, and I am now able to be a resource for them. All of this is thanks to First Graduate. 

First Graduate doesn't just help students be the first in their famiies to graduate from college, but changes the futures of families completely.  

Patricia Hernandez
Hampshire College
Bachelor of Arts – Marketing, Media and Usability 

My college experience has given me courage.  Being the first in my family to graduate from college to me means growth. And I know that this is just the beginning. School has equipped me with is the toolset with which to pursue success. It has given me an arsenal of knowledge that will help me orient myself during trying times. That's all I could ever ask for, so for those of you attending, those of you who have supported me and my cohort, thank you. We wouldn't be here without you.

Monique Mendoza
University of California, Santa Barbara
Bachelor of Arts – Sociology 

This June I will be receiving my bachelor’s degree in Sociology with minors in Feminist Studies and Education. I was once told, “If you leave college the same person you were when you came in, then you did something wrong,” The highlight of my college career has truly been becoming a different person.  I owe much of my growth and development to the experiences I have had in college over the past four years. I’ve had the opportunity to learn, make mistakes, sacrifice and take advantage of every opportunity that presented itself. I changed my major more than once, joined a sorority, something I never thought I would do, built relationships with great professors and submerged myself in the diversity of those around me. I spent a summer abroad, learning French and eating way too much gelato and most importantly, I saw in real life what I had only previously seen in books.

Although extremely motivated, I had no idea how to get to where I wanted to go. No one in my family had ever attempted what I wanted for myself and, almost nine years ago, I turned to First Graduate.  I now leave college with a path for the rest of my family to follow, including my two younger brothers. They are my motivation, and my drive to succeed has always been to help them see college as a reality, instead of unobtainable and out of reach.

I am eternally grateful for what First Graduate has done for my family and me and hope that one day I can return the gift to another young person, because the gift they have given me has truly changed my life.

Guilder Ramirez
University of California, Davis
Bachelor of Arts – International Relations

By graduating first in my family I have set an example for my nieces and nephews, as well as all the other younger members of my family. My graduation has shown them that they can achieve and they can succeed. As I say to them, a big shot is just a little shot that kept shooting. The success of all of the first graduates here happens because people invest in young minds; and that investment, combined with driven, passionate kids, changes lives and allows moments like today occur: all of us standing here successful, professional, and ready to help the next generation succeed. 

Yvette Ramirez
White House “Champion of Change”
Harvard University
Bachelor of Arts - Sociology

I am the daughter of working class Mexican immigrants and I just graduated from Harvard University with a major in Sociology and a minor in Comparative Religion. I am a first generation college student (as well as a first generation high school graduate), and the first in my family (but not the last!) to attend an Ivy League university. I focused much of my time in college learning about education and developing my skills as a teacher. I now have a credential to teach middle school English, and I look forward to a career preparing low-income youth to attend college as well. Another passion of mine is learning about different cultures, something that I was able to do during my semester and summers abroad in southern Africa. Thanks to a fellowship from the Rockefeller family, I will spend the upcoming year in Mexico, teaching in a small Mayan town in the middle of the Lacandon Jungle. I plan on one day obtaining a PhD in education and perhaps becoming a school psychologist.

I feel incredibly indebted to all of the staff at First Graduate and to the generous donors who have collectively supported me for the past 10 years and helped me accomplish so much. I am also grateful for all the struggles I faced in getting here, as they ignited my passion for justice through education. 

Vicky Wu
University of California, Irvine
Bachelor of Arts – Social Ecology and Criminology, Law and Society

Looking back on the last four years, I am extremely proud that I have challenged myself by trying new things without the fear of failure. The best decision I made in my undergraduate career was to switch from a science-related major to one in the social sciences, even though growing up I firmly believed I would have a career in the science field. The switch has allowed me to learn and prosper in an area that I am passionate about. As a first generation college graduate, I will be able to reach my full potential in my career by continuing my education and doing something that will make a difference. Thank you to the First Graduate community for supporting, inspiring, and believing in all of our abilities to reach our full potential.







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