A college-going culture is beginning to take root in Pico Rivera, California, a community that is close to our heart. Jacki’s grandfather was once the mayor of Pico Rivera and it is where she grew up.
In many ways it is an all-too typical Southern California city: high poverty, predominantly Hispanic population, low educational attainment, and low wage earning potential as a result. Inspired by the Kalamazoo Promise in Kalamazoo in Michigan, we decided to bring together a number of key players in Pico Rivera and start a grassroots movement to ensure that every home in Pico Rivera has a college degree.
The program is called Generation 1st Degree Pico Rivera. Now in its third year, the program has supported more than 1,500 students through 3 key programs: College Blueprint, Be A Leader, and the Frank Terrazas Scholarship, which is managed by our partners, the Hispanic Scholarship Fund. Generation 1st Degree includes a variety of support mechanisms including college essay prep, college tours, support through the application process, financial literacy, scholarships, as well as ‘Town-Hall’ events where families come together to learn more about the college process.
Every time we hear back from our students who are finishing college, we are humbled. These are some of the best and brightest young people and they all share the same sentiment: they could have never even dreamed of college if it wasn’t for Generation 1st Degree. It’s possible that they didn’t have someone to guide them towards pursuing higher education, not knowing where to even begin the process. With this program’s help and their ambition, we now see students attending Yale, Brown, and George Washington University, just to name a few. These young individuals are an incredible resource to Pico Rivera and to the nation as a whole, and that is what drives us forward in our mission to create access for them to attend and finish college.
Perhaps more important is the idea that if Generation 1st Degree works here in Pico Rivera, it could work anywhere. This is a formula that can be replicated in communities throughout the country, and it is a rare initiative that has an incredibly high return on investment.