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2014 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 meaningful careers. First Graduate’s mission seeks 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. We provide 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 10 - 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, 100 percent of First Graduate high school seniors has graduated from high school and enrolled in college. 88% of First Graduate high school graduates are eligible for the California State University system compared to 52% in the San Francisco Unified School district (SFUSD number also includes non-first generation students); 68% of our high school graduates are eligible for the University of California system. By comparison 18% of Black and Latino students in California graduate eligible to attend a CSU and 6% graduate eligible to attend UC schools. Our students are attending schools across the nation such as San Francisco State University; Barnard College; the University of California, Los Angeles; Tufts University; and more.

Target demographics: First Graduate works exclusively with aspiring first-generation college graduates -- 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: More than 469, plus their families.

Geographic areas served: San Francisco, CA

Programs: First Graduate's effective college access and success program helps more than 469 San Francisco-based students each year. In the spring of 2018, we enrolled our 18th class of new students and we are sending 37 high school seniors off to college! We coach our students for 10 years as they journey from middle school to high school, from high school to college, and from college into their first careers. We provide year-round academic instruction, tutoring and support; high school and college counseling; mentoring; family engagement activities; career exploration activities; and college scholarships and support.

Community Stories

2 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters


Client Served

Rating: 5

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


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!