Don’t be fooled, a college education is still the best way to break generational poverty

Many tech entrepreneurs, like Elon Musk and Peter Thiel, have encouraged young people to avoid college for years. These entrepreneurs suggest that, thanks to the rapidly developing web-based economy, young people can get the education they need to build a business or land a secure job through online certification programs or even by watching the right YouTube videos.

However, one-sided digital educational tools have severe limitations, such as the lack of a public forum where students can share their thoughts, receive individualized feedback, and discuss new ideas. Colleges have been fertile in creating some of our nation’s biggest leaders and innovators. These experiences can help students build confidence, forge genuine relationships, and expand their personal and professional networks.

How Kara Used College To Build Opportunities Beyond Her Community

We know that students can exceed their potential when they are given opportunities to grow their personal and professional networks. 

Take the example of  Kara, a First Graduate® alumna who is the daughter of immigrant parents. She worked hard throughout middle and high school to make her parents proud and achieve her dream. Her goal was to get into a good college and pursue a prosperous professional career.

Kara’s hard work paid off, and she entered Cal Poly as a marketing major in 2013. During her sophomore year of college, she had the opportunity to study abroad in London. This experience led to a marketing internship with a company called IQPC, where she managed social media and got first-hand experience working in a marketing department. 

The opportunity at IQPC led to another internship with the Children’s Creativity Museum in San Francisco, which gave Kara additional insight into the marketing world. These internships provided further exposure to the marketing world and introduced Kara to influential marketing professionals who could help her jumpstart her career.

After applying to several positions, Kara landed a job the day after she graduated from Cal Poly. She is currently working at Toptal as an Enterprise manager. Her role consists of running paid advertisements and green lighting testing methods to increase enterprise clientele for this international organization. 

Kara’s story attests to the impact the college experience can have on students’ lives that transcend the classroom. She was able to secure a high-paying job at an established international company because of the opportunities she took and the hard work she put in during her time in college. 

First-Generation College Students Are Breaking Barriers


The challenge is that many students who come from immigrant families are the first in their families (and possibly their communities) to attend and graduate from college in the United States. They often don’t have a an ideal example example to emulate or the tools to recognize that the path to college begins in middle school.

First-generation college students need a team of volunteers, mentors, coaches, and family members in their corner; they need guidance from someone who understands the value of higher education and can help students ensure that they stay on the right path all the way through.

This is what First Graduate is all about. We are a San Francisco nonprofit organization committed to helping students discover their passions and get into college programs that allow them to pursue those passions. 

First Graduate® makes 12-year commitments to each of our nearly 400 students. These students begin their career journey the summer after sixth grade and continue to work with First Graduate® until they are early in their careers.

During these 12 years, First Graduate® students participate in a five-week summer session in partnership with Aim High, year-round academic instruction and tutoring, high school and college counseling, and mentoring programs. All students receive internship opportunities and college application support. We’re there to cheer them on as they decide which college to attend, and we help them navigate those first few years of their career. 

First Graduate® students are the first in their families to attend college. We equip them with the resources they need to ensure they won’t be the last. 

Support First Graduate

If you agree that college is a critical path for social mobility and economic stability, we encourage you to support First Graduate® and our mission to help first-generation college students move up the socioeconomic ladder.

Please consider financially supporting First Graduate® students with a donation. Your donation will directly impact students working hard to break the cycle of poverty in their families and communities.

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At First Graduate, we decry anti-Semitism and Islamophobia at our schools, college campuses, and in our communities. Our organization centers around providing access to quality education for everyone. We must stand with all who acknowledge and respect the humanity in each of us. We are one species. In this divisive moment, we implore you to