The group of first-generation students attending WSU next fall will not be alone with the help of the new First Scholars program.
The purpose of the program is to provide 20 first-generation freshman scholars with peer mentors, who are also first-generation college students, said Alicia Saldivar, coordinator for First Scholars.
WSU will be one of five campuses in the country to have the national program at their university, she said.
The program is looking for undergraduates who can balance academics and mentorship, she said. Saldivar was hired back in October to set up the program.
“The amount of first generation students in college is significant,” Saldivar said. “Not every first generation student is the same.”
She said the program is grant-funded for five years through a private donor in Texas, and the goal of the program is to increase graduation rates of first-generation students at WSU. Saldivar said was a first generation student and would have loved to have a program like this when she started school.
The program will also include a pay-it-forward service which has scholars participate in volunteer activities in the community, according to the First Scholars website. As a way of giving back, the scholars will become peer mentors and take other leadership roles in their sophomore and junior years by assisting new incoming scholars.
Other goals for the program are to connect students to the campus and involve them in student groups, Saldivar said. She hopes the program can create a new culture at WSU.
“It takes a special kind of
person to be a mentor,” Saldivar said.
Lucila Loera, assistant vice president of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, was one of the main grant writers for the project. She said they have had institutional support from top to bottom and have had great luck with the program.
“It really showcases Washington State University as a great university for first-generation college students,” Loera said.
WSU will also be the only university on the West Coast to have the program, Loera said. There is a research component to the program and they are at the forefront of the work.
“The excitement now has shifted to getting the cohorts,” Loera said.
Sharon Ericsson, an academic and career adviser for WSU, was on the selection committee of picking the scholars. She said the program is an opportunity to continue increasing support of all students and allow WSU to be a national model.
“It can make our campus more diverse and stronger,” Ericsson said.
She said the support can enable these scholars to reach their full potential and the program can pioneer these practices.
For more information on the First Scholars program and to apply to become a mentor, visit www.firstscholars.wsu.edu.