To Everyone Who Attended Cap & Gown 2023: Thank You!

Cap & Gown

Cap & Gown is, in many ways, the culmination of what we do here at First Graduate. It’s a chance to celebrate our graduates’ hard work and raise the necessary funds to continue bridging the education equity gap. This year we had almost 300 attendees at the InterContinental Mark Hopkins!

Thanks to attendees and donors, we can continue to provide tutoring, mentorship, scholarship, and internship opportunities to students who need it.

Highlights from the Evening

The event allowed graduates to celebrate their achievements and be recognized by their peers, parents, and advisors. In addition, speeches from current students and alums highlighted how significant First Graduate® has been to their lives.

Exploring and dreaming

The first speakers were two sisters, Diana and Jasmine, both middle schoolers who have been a part of First Graduate® for the past two years.

Diana, an eighth grader, shared her aspirations: “I want to study to become either a doctor or a scientist because I love math and science. My goal is to help people in the future. I know it will be hard, but I think I can do it, especially with First Graduate’s help.” She explained how the visits to different schools and creating a road map helped her decide the type of school she wants to go to.

Jasmine, a seventh grader, is glad First Graduate® has allowed her to explore possibilities for her future through field trips to different companies.

Their parents encouraged them to join First Graduate® so they would have access to the opportunities they didn’t have.

In honor of Sylvia Donohoe, the First in Family honoree of the year, both girls received $1000 in scholarships for their future.

Finding a calling

Alex Lazo was the MC for the evening (check out his alumni spotlight to learn more about his story).

Alex was part of First Graduate’s founding class and a testament to the program’s impact: “First Graduate® changed the course of my educational journey and, in the process, set a strong foundation for my daughters. My family and I will be forever grateful to First Graduate’s amazing staff, kind volunteers, and everyone involved in transforming the lives of students like myself and future generations of first graduates.”

Alex is two months away from completing his master’s degree. He credits First Graduate® with showing him his calling: becoming a community-oriented educator. He’s worn many hats throughout the years in various educational positions, and this summer, he will be stepping into the role of inclusion and access specialist and program director at Jumpstart.

Achieving a long-held dream

Esmeralda Barrios is a senior at UC Santa Cruz; she is graduating this spring a year early with a bachelor’s in psychology and a minor in education. 

Her parents could not get an education because of financial barriers, and she grew up watching how much it affected their daily lives. At age 12, she dreamed of attending a university and First Graduate® gave her the guidance and support she needed. Advisors helped her apply to schools and then find the scholarships she needed to be able to attend UCSC.

Esmeralda ended by saying, “I would love to thank First Graduate® and the various advisors that built bridges for me to be here in front of you all. Because of you and First Graduate, and my parent’s support, I know I will be able to achieve my dreams.”

A Celebration of Success

As we celebrate our newest graduates, remember that first-generation students can move from sixth grade through college graduation and into meaningful careers because of you and your support! And we couldn’t do it without the help of our corporate supporters: Hamilton Zanze, Dodge & Cox, Accenture, Adobe, KPMG, BSSP, Millennium Career Advantage, and GoodRx.

So again, thank you for helping us support our students. They won’t forget it.

Connect with us:

Stay Connected

More Updates

Be a Voice Against Hate

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