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2020 Top-Rated Nonprofit

First Graduate

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Adult & Child Matching Programs, Children & Youth, Education, Student Services, Youth Development Programs

Mission: First Graduate's mission is to help students become the first in their families to graduate from college, well-prepared to launch careers that are meaningful to them. We seek to level the playing field for students who are immigrants or children of immigrants, who come from challenging economic circumstances, and who are otherwise disadvantaged in the dominant culture. FG provides them with the long-term support that their more well-off peers receive so that they can be competitive high school and college candidates. And, this long-term investment in their education and exposure to career options sets them on a path to build careers, not just jobs. Education is a right, not a privilege, and we work with students from the summer after sixth grade through college graduation (a 12 year journey) to help them attain their degrees and thereby help their families move out of poverty in a single generation.

Results: Our long-term, individualized approach successfully meets the needs of first-generation youth. To-date, 99 percent of First Graduate high school seniors have graduated from high school and enrolled in college. By comparison, only 50% of Black and Latinx students in California graduate from high school, 11% of first generation students nationally attain a BA degree, low-income students are 50% less likely to apply to a selective university, and 80% of people who lost their job in the pandemic do not have college degrees. Our students are attending schools across the nation such as San Francisco State University; NYU, The University of San Francisco, San Francisco State University, Georgetown University, CalPoly, and UC Berkeley, and more.

Target demographics: First Graduate works exclusively with aspiring first-generation students who come from families with no college tradition. The majority of our students are immigrants or children of immigrants who receive either free or reduced-price lunch.

Direct beneficiaries per year: Almost 400 students, plus their families.

Geographic areas served: San Francisco, CA

Programs: First Graduate's effective programs help almost 400 San Francisco-based students each year. In the spring of 2020, we enrolled our 20th class of new students in middle school, support +130 high school students, and we are sending 43 high school seniors off to college!

Community Stories

32 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

First Graduate is an excellent organization. The educational programs, and coaching for students are truly helpful. I have been a volunteer and can attest to the quality of their services and their efforts to provide financial aid to the students that needed it the most.

1

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I am so grateful for the organization. It gives the community a sense of Hope!

1

Board Member

Rating: 5

I have been volunteering with First Graduate since 2015 and became a Board Member on 2/1/2020. I support First Graduate because the programs for the students and their families have made such a positive difference in their lives.
Results matter and First Graduate exemplifies producing programs that betters these students life and provides a path to a rewarding and successful future.

1

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I started working with First Graduate in April 2020. Needless to say, starting work during the pandemic had its challenges and the time I've spent working with this team has been great. The staff are very passionate, talented, and resilient; the board is engaged; and the students have been inspiring.

Many people read about our 12 year commitment to students and are inspired by it. Seeing it in action has shown me how impactful our commitments to our students are.

1

Board Member

Rating: 5

As both a volunteer and a board member for First Graduate, I see the work they do in our local, San Francisco community on a regular basis. They focus on really making a transformational impact on their students... introducing them to new schools, careers, and ways of working. First Graduate also has a clear mission: helping students become the first in their families to graduate from college

1

Board Member

Rating: 5

When I made the commitment to volunteer to provide career readiness seminars and coaching for First Graduate in 2014, I had no idea how fulfilling the experience would be!

Five + years later, I joined the Board of Directors to continue my passion for supporting the Mission and Vision of this important College Access organization!

We get to see the tangible results of the work and fund-raising we do on behalf of students and families who can now do more than just dream of going to college - we make it happen!!

Marvell Allen

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

As a supporter, I have noticed First Graduate's staff go above and beyond. During the Pandemic, they were able to deliver care packages to the Class of 2020 high school students to make them feel special. The First Graduate staff was also able to deliver Chromebooks from the office for student use during distance learning. It is rare to come across an organization that walks the walk and talks the talk. The students come first and FG works with the students and their families to make it through obstacles and be the first in the family to graduate. Thank you First Graduate supporters and thank you First Graduate staff for being so dedicated.

1

Board Member

Rating: 5

I have been working with First Graduate for a number of years. I have been entirely blown away by the staff and thier commitment to the students. This became exceedingly apparent as they pivoted quickly once Coronavirus hit to securing aid for students to help with everything from making sure all the students had food to getting wifi hotspots into the hands of students that didn't have internet access at home for remote learning. I look forward to continue working with First graduate for many years to come.

Previous Stories
1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

First Graduate is an amazing organization. The staff is passionate about making an impact and is truly dedicated to each and every student in the program. Being a volunteer with them for the past three years has been incredibly rewarding and I am excited to continue to give my time to them for years to come.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I have been working in First Graduate since the beginning of the pandemic, and I can attest to the commitment to helping our students and their families. We have been working non-stop to continue providing academic support to our community by adapting them to this new virtual environment. Furthermore, we have been battling the digital divide by providing Laptops/Chromebooks and Hotspots to our students so they can do their homework, among many other initiatives. FG is a great organization to work, volunteer, and donate. Our very unique approach to helping students, from the 6th grade and all the way to after college graduation, allow us to offer a wide variety of ways to support our community along the way. Check us out at www.firstgraduate.org

1

Board Member

Rating: 5

First Graduate is very unique in many respects. They focus on children that will be the first in their family to graduate from college. They will then support the children over many years to get them the support they need to successfully finish school, apply to colleges, and then successfully graduate from college. The organization is so dedicated to the kids and it is amazing to see how they thrive!

1

Board Member

Rating: 5

I've supported and been involved with First Graduate for almost ten years now. The culture of the organization and level of dedication to the students and mission is truly impressive. Despite their success, I've valued their continued focus on the San Francisco area to help students be the first in their families to graduate college. Last year I had the opportunity to meet the college graduates I tutored when I first volunteered at First Graduate in 2008. It's hard to express the mixed emotions of pride, joy, and mostly gratitude that I and other volunteers felt to have another class of students enter the work force and adult life equipped with a college degree, in large part due to First Graduate's support. And if I were to gauge success, the same graduates fully recognize the benefits and support they have received from First Graduate's staff, volunteers and donors. If you believe that education is near the top of the list to directly or indirectly make for a better world and better human beings, I would strongly urge you to consider supporting First Graduate in any capacity.

Board Member

Rating: 5

First Graduate continues to make a difference to so many San Francisco middle school and high school students. Focus remains on its core mission to get as many students through high school, graduating and matriculating to college, and ultimately earning a college degree. Every student that goes through the program benefits from the all of the caring staff and volunteers. The more resources it has the more students it can help. Give it a look and take that next step.

1

Board Member

Rating: 5

The social ladder is only as strong as societies willingness to invest in the next generation. First Graduate plays a critical role in helping students first in their families to graduate from college. This not only benefits the student, but makes a lasting positive impact on their family and our communities.

1

Board Member

Rating: 5

First Graduate is an amazing non-profit. The kids who participate in the program are truly inspirational, accomplishing something that no one in their family has done before. A college degree is a fantastic accomplishment, and First Graduate is making that possible for so many kids! I feel very lucky to be involved with this program and all it has to offer!

1

Board Member

Rating: 5

First Graduate offers dedicated staff and supporters to children as early as middle school, working with them to finish high school, gain admission to college and become the first in their family to graduate. Services include tutoring, mentoring, counseling, test preparation and a variety of career-focused activities, such as the opportunity to visit professionals and learn about jobs that they had no idea existed. First Graduate does so much for so many and is working hard to be able to increase the number of students involved in the program. Learn more about this truly great non-profit at the First Graduate website - http://firstgraduate.org.

1

Board Member

Rating: 5

First Graduate provides essential opportunities to young people in San Francisco who aspire to be the first in their families to receive college educations. Because those served by First Graduate receive years of academic support and services geared toward college admission and excellence, these students are able to gain the skills needed to become college graduates. These services are vital to ending the cycle of poverty and closing the opportunity gaps that prevent all students from achieving their dreams.

3

Client Served

Rating: 5

I'm grateful to First Graduate because my daughter wouldn't be in college without it.

2

Board Member

Rating: 5

First Graduate is an inspiring nonprofit organization. It has an incredibly passionate and committed staff and an excellent, proven program. I was lucky enough to have some of the students visit my offices on "career day" and it was such a treat to see how engaged and thoughtful even the middle school students were about jobs and college and success. The staff has found a formula that seems to work incredibly well and it's inspiring to be a part of helping such a wonderful organization scale it's impact.

1

Board Member

Rating: 5

I have been involved with First Graduate for a few years. The Staff is incredibly passionate and committed. The students are provided a thorough and thoughtful progression from 7th grade through college to help them be first in their family to go to college. They students and their families are passionate about leveraging all of the services provided by First Graduate to get into college and avail themselves of a quality education.

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

In seventh grade, I became a student of First Graduate. My middle school faced challenges typical of inner-city schools serving low-income kids of color: poor-quality education, gang problems, lack of resources, etc. The First Graduate staff and volunteers truly believed in my abilities and potential, and always encouraged me to reach for the best. Thanks to their guidance, I was admitted to one of the best high schools in San Francisco. I struggled a lot initially, but I always had their support to push me forward and help me become a student who not only excelled in school, but who was carefully preparing for college as well. Four years later, First Graduate staff and volunteers worked hard to guide me through the rigorous college application process. Lots of essay-editing and many questions about financial aid later, I was admitted to all ten of the schools to which I had applied, including Harvard, which is where I ultimately attended. But the support didn't end there! First Graduate staff, and my FG mentor, continued to check up on me throughout my years at Harvard. They provided (and still provide!) me with letters of recommendations to fellowships, grants, jobs, etc. and therefore I have been able to enrich my education even further through meaningful work and travel. I am proud to be a first-generation college graduate and a First Graduate alumna, and am forever indebted to the staff and volunteers for their tireless efforts to help me succeed. My personal mission now is to help other low-income kids of color through education, so that I can share all that First Graduate has given me. My life is a testimony to the effectiveness, organization, and dedication of this comprehensive, life-changing non-profit. This is why I give First Graduate 5 stars!

1

Board Member

Rating: 5

I started with First as a mentor to kids that are about to enter high school with the goal of being the first in family to graduate college. Now, over 13 years later, I serve on the board of this great cause and am consistently impressed with the ability to deliver at such a high level to their students. The program is dedicated to help their students choose the right high school, tutor and mentor them through high school, pick a college suitable to their goals, and stick with them through college to graduation. Students who have been through the program have accomplished so much and come back to the program to help mentor younger students towards their goals. The staff, volunteers and the board work tirelessly to improve the program and achieve their goals of more and more students becoming the first in their family to graduate college.

1 Pat_56

Board Member

Rating: 5

I've been involved with First Graduate for 2 years. Ever since joining I've been inspired by the caliber of students that the organization recruits and the commitment that the staff shows day in and day out. The combination of the two makes for a highly impactful program that changes that lives of students who otherwise may not have made it to college.

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I began volunteering with First Graduate earlier this year as a writing coach for a student who will be submitting his college applications soon. From the moment I was invited to volunteer I could see that First Graduate’s staff were well organized and thoughtful in their engagement with prospective volunteers. I truly appreciated that all of my questions were answered thoroughly and clearly before I began my volunteer work. The writing coach training I attended was well presented, and all follow-up communications with the staff have been prompt and helpful. I look forward to continuing my volunteer involvement with First Graduate in the months ahead.

1 Slannin

Board Member

Rating: 5

I initially heard about First Graduate thanks to a friend who had worked with the organization for a few years. He had a wonderful experience, and his stories inspired me to sign up for my first volunteer event. From there I was hooked; I have attended and participated in many First Graduate events, including the Annual Gala, college workshops, Discovery Day, public speaking workshops and more. One of my favorite experiences was hosting a group of First Graduate students at my company for the day - it was so fun to introduce the students to a variety of professions that were possible with a college degree. Today, I feel very honored to be a member of the First Graduate board. The staff and leadership of the organization is first-class, and I am continually impressed with the dedication and passion they bring to their roles. I cannot recommend First Graduate enough!

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have volunteered with First Graduate for over a year in several capacities from helping with the annual gala to grading presentations to being an Academic Coach for 7th graders. The staff is well-organized, extremely focused, consistent and make it easy for volunteers to sign up for opportunities. The students are given a wide range of curriculum that I have seen truly help them to succeed in their everyday schoolwork to getting into college. You can see the pride each First Graduate has when being able to say he or she got into the school of their choice - tipping their cap to all of the support gained from the staff, coaches and volunteers. As a volunteer I have felt so inspired and know that I have helped to make a difference in many kids' lives.

1 Josué H.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I volunteered as an Academic Coach last year and it was the best experience I've ever had as a volunteer. The staff is very friendly and helpful, which made it easier to adapt to the role. Likewise, the students are so ambitious and talented that made it great to working with them!

Board Member

Rating: 5

I have had a multi-faceted and evolving relationship with First Graduate over the past few years. I started as a pro bono volunteer helping with their use of salesforce for CRM and donor/donation management. Then I jumped in as a volunteer at a number of student events. And now I am a board member. All through the my many year relationship I have been very impressed with the program, staff, and students. The work they are doing is important (I myself was first in my family to graduate) and I am happy to support their efforts. I found the volunteer efforts all very well organized and always felt like I had a significant impact on the students I was working with.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

When I retired from teaching and moved from Maine to the Bay Area of California I was looking for a meaningful volunteer program that was making a difference in the lives of kids who are motivated to improve their future. I found it in First Graduate. The experiences I have had with the students and staff have been rewarding and fulfilling. As a first graduate in my own family I realize how important a college education is to changing lives for the better. I will continue to volunteer and look forward to more success with the First Graduate program.

Board Member

Rating: 5

I have always been impressed by the degree to which First Graduate engages its students and the dedication and strategic thinking exhibited by the organization’s staff. What I feel sets First Graduate apart is the long-term commitment it provides to its students. Not only does the organization help students to succeed academically to make college a possibility, it works with them to realize that opportunity in application process and then continues to provide guidance and support once students are in college. The last portion of this commitment means a lot, particularly at a time when students from underserved communities often struggle at the beginning of their college careers. First Graduate truly makes a difference for many who will become the first in their family to graduate from college.

2 Maida B.

Board Member

Rating: 5

My first encounter with First Graduate came in 2003 when I was looking for opportunities to tutor high school students in reading and writing. That year of working with the first cohort of students (now all college grads!) as well as the sharp and dedicated staff led me to accept an invitation to join the board. Eight years later, I am as committed to First Graduate as ever! The difference the program makes in the lives of San Francisco youth, their families, and their communities is truly inspring. Because the commitment begins the summer before seventh grade and extends through the obtainment of a BA, staff build trusting and constructive relationships with students and families to help navigate the inevitable ups and downs of the adolescent educational journey -- always keeping the focus on the long view.

Jack D.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I became a mentor in the first class of First Graduate in 2000. My student is close to graduating from UC Santa Cruz this year. I have also been a tutor at various times. It has been a wonderful experience. FG has an outstanding staff and a great group of volunteers. All along as a volunteer I have felt well connected and supported by the program. I never felt overwhelmed or isolated in the experience. I've felt like I'm part of a team sharing the goal of getting my student through high school, into college and now nearly through college. I've been able to talk to FG counselors, teachers, staff and volunteers, share information, get advice and share problems and triumphs. Within the program I was able to develop a strong relationship with my student's parents and family. I have been a lifelong volunteer and had the pleasure of being involved in some very good programs. First Graduate is the best program for volunteer support and satisfaction that I have ever been involved with. I have been very fortunate to have been a part of First Graduate for over 10 years now and I look forward to years to come.