Alumni Spotlight: Alex Lazo

First Graduate® Support Inspires Alum To Give Back!

Meet Alex Lazo, a member of First Graduate’s inaugural cohort (on the left side of the picture).

At age 10, Alex moved to San Francisco from El Salvador. He went to a newcomers school, Mission Education Center, to learn English and adjust to the educational environment in the US. He then transitioned to Enola D. Maxwell Middle School.

Alex grew up in a struggling San Francisco community. His school had poor test scores, and Alex and the other students had to deal with racism even within the school community.

While Alex attended Enola D. Maxwell Middle School, he discovered First Graduate, then called Bay Fund. He met the staff of First Graduate, who acknowledged how rocky the path to college could be for students from his area. But First Graduate® promised to help him every step of the way.

First Graduate® seemed almost too good to be true to Alex and his parents. But even at such a young age, Alex was determined. He borrowed his older brother’s nice shirt and went to Discovery Day at the University of San Francisco to apply.

Alex says he realized years later when he saw an Instagram post from First Graduate® how much the program changed his life.

Reflecting On a Personal Evolution

While his immigrant parents had taught him the value of hard work and perseverance, the lessons didn’t click.

In high school, Alex lost motivation and almost got kicked out of the program because of poor attendance. But a staff member took time to sit Alex down and talk about the realities he faced and how his life could look with or without First Graduate. 

That was enough. Alex realized he needed to get his head in the game.

The Road to Graduation

Alex credits a lot of his academic success to First Graduate’s endless support. But even more than that was the vision and perspective for his future. Other than Discovery Day, he’d never once set foot on a college campus until the day trips that First Graduate® took him on. On these trips, he heard from students who looked like him and had similar backgrounds.

First Graduate® also provided him financial peace through the scholarships they helped him get, which took the burden of paying for college off him and his parents. 

While he initially struggled in college as an ESL student, the perseverance he developed allowed him to succeed in college. 

After graduating, Alex wanted to give back. So now, Alex works as a student support specialist at the Bay School of San Francisco. Alex continues to help students the way adults helped him and offers to speak to any student struggling to see what their life could be like.

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