(A guest post from Daniela Felix on our sister blog La Comadre, would love to hear some Oakland stories as well)
Any first generation college student can attest to the importance of mentorship in supporting them through the college years. For first generation college students in particular, the first year of college can be an intense source of culture shock and students can struggle in ways they never have before. From being responsible for one’s finances and making a semester of financial aid last that long, to having to be one of the few people of color within large classes and seminar, it takes time to get used to being in a college environment.
The Richmond Promise is a scholarship program in the city of Richmond designed to support Richmond alumni through these exact times. The scholarship program provides access to a financial scholarship to meet educational expenses, along with the training and mentorship necessary to achieve true college success. For first generation college students, financial hardships are prevalent for sure, but it’s also important to equip them with the support and training to have them achieve independence in higher education. These students then have the empowerment to pave the way for generations that will follow them.
Most recently, the scholarship program has partnered with Americorps VISTA to have current college students from Richmond supporting incoming college freshmen, according to a recent article published in The Richmond Standard. There is immeasurable power in having Richmond alumni supporting graduating seniors in their transitions to college in the fall. There’s power in having young people from the same community supporting one another in the unique transition that it is the first year of college and all the challenges and experiences that come with it.
Being the first person in my family to attend college came with exploring a world that was unknown to me. Reflecting back to my experience as a first generation college freshman in 2013, it was definitely the mentors in my life who took me under their wing that year, that motivated me enough to surpass the challenges I faced and push through. The first year of college is such a trying time for students and as people who have made it through these systems and institutions that were not designed for us, we need to pave the way for the generations following us.