Create Access

A college-going culture is beginning to take root in Pico Rivera, California, a community close to our heart. Jacki’s grandfather was once the mayor of Pico Rivera, 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, Michigan, we decided to bring together several key players in Pico Rivera and start a grassroots movement to ensure that every home in Pico Rivera has a college degree.

Generation 1st Degree-Pico Rivera helped more than 1,500 students through 3 key programs: College BlueprintBe A Leader, and the Frank Terrazas Scholarship, which our partners, the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, managed. Generation 1st Degree included a variety of helpful mechanisms, including college essay prep, college tours, application process support, financial literacy, scholarships, as well as ‘Town Hall’ events where families came together to learn more about the college process.

We are humbled every time we hear back from our students who are finishing college. 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. While perhaps not having appropriate guidance toward pursuing higher education, Generation 1st Degree was there to help. With the assistance and ambition of Generation 1st Degree, students were able to graduate from Yale, Brown, and George Washington University to name a few. These intelligent, young adults are an incredible resource to Pico Rivera and the nation, and that is what inspired our mission to create access for them to attend and finish college.

Perhaps more important is the idea that if Generation 1st Degree worked in Pico Rivera, it could work anywhere. The program can be replicated in communities throughout the country. It’s a positive initiative with an incredibly high return on investment.