Volunteer Story: Rafaelito Sy

Volunteering for First Graduate has given me an avenue to impart my passion for writing and storytelling to today’s youth. As an essay coach, I was paired with a young woman from the Philippines, who had turned financial struggles and a dysfunctional relationship with her paternal grandmother into fuel for growth and success. The happiness she expressed because of my help in articulating her story was personally rewarding; I brought her that much closer to her goal of higher education.

As a volunteer in the marketing department, I presently edit profiles of FG alumni for the Alumni Spotlight Project. The journey of every alumni – the will and determination each one possesses despite the odds – is impressive. They all have stories worth telling, stories that instill in us faith in the future, no matter our age. Being a conduit for their voices validates my purpose as a writer.           

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Once again, as people are espousing racism and hateful behavior towards members of our community, we at First Graduate cannot be silent.


Ivan was part of the First Graduate cohort six. He recalls his time at FG as community-driven and remains forever grateful for the support and encouragement the program provided. It introduced him to role models and mentors, whose emotional backing and positive reinforcements were inspiring and crucial to his success.

Cesar’s Story: from Student to Alumni, and Volunteer

“I vividly remember when Anthony, who is a former FG employee, came to my math class and presented the word ‘college,’ and I was sold,” he says. Cesar’s family had emigrated from Latin America when he was a child, and whatever hurdles had existed in achieving a higher education dissipated on that day in class. FG would counsel him in the ensuing years on both financial and academic matters, bolstering him to fulfill his greatest potential as a student. Of the 23 colleges he applied to, he was accepted by 18.