UCSF Supports First Gen Students with New Scholarships

By Jeannine Cuevas

Eight First Gen Scholarship recipients pose for a photo on stairs at Parnassus campus
Recipients of the first First Gen Scholarship, funded by UCSF Student Financial Services, gather for the first awardee mixer in the Student Success Center at the Parnassus Heights campus. Photo by Susan Merrell

UC San Francisco’s First Generation to College Support Services has announced the recipients of its inaugural First Gen Scholarship. Twenty students in programs across UCSF’s professional schools and the Graduate Division were awarded the scholarship, which recognizes first gen students who actively contribute to the first gen community at UCSF. Each awardee will receive $3,000 to support their educational goals.  

About 30 percent of all UCSF students identify as first gen – those who are the first in their immediate family to attend college and graduate with a bachelor’s degree. Student Financial Services helped identify scholarship-eligible first gen students, who were invited to apply. To be considered, students had to be in at least the second year of their academic program, enrolled full-time, and involved in the first gen community at UCSF or more broadly.  

A panel that included UCSF first gen alumni, faculty and staff chose the 20 scholarship recipients from a pool of 52 applicants. Students were asked to describe how being first gen influenced their academic journeys and how they have contributed – and how they intend to contribute in the future – to the first gen community.   

Four student scholarship recipients presenting at the Student Services Center
From left to right: scholarship recipients Johsias Maru, Christopher Huebner, Anuvir Singh, and Derek Ponce. Photo by Susan Merrell

Many of the awardees expressed a strong personal commitment to helping fellow first gen students to succeed, as well a desire to encourage young people not to limit their educational and career aspirations. Johsias Maru, a second-year medical student, wrote, “I have benefited from the bridges built by others before me, and I hope to build bridges for others.” Third-year dentistry student Joanne Wong said, “Education has become a centerpiece to the life I am building. It is not only a way for me to grasp a better understanding of the world, but it is also a powerful tool to lift up those around me – my family, my community, and the underserved.”

Several scholarship recipients described their efforts to help their program’s efforts to recruit, retain, and support other first gens and students from historically underrepresented groups. Some are also working to benefit first gens beyond UCSF. Wilson Ng, a student in the certificate program in orthodontics in the School of Dentistry, mentors pre-dental students via his blog, which has over 22,000 views. Medical student Alexis Valazquez co-founded MiMentor.org, a national nonprofit organization that creates mentorship opportunities for the next generation of diverse health care leaders in under-resourced communities and makes special efforts to reach undocumented students.

The announcement of this year’s First Gen Scholarship awardees represented UCSF’s participation in the “National First-Generation College Celebration,” held each year across the U.S. on November 8, the anniversary of the signing of the Higher Education Act of 1965, which was intended to level the playing field for Americans who had fewer educational opportunities.  

Three students at luncheon for inaugural First Gen Scholarship
Vice chancellor of Student Life Alece Alderson (second from right) speaks with scholarship recipients Ernesto Rojas (left), Mario Gad, and Johsias Maru (right). Photo by Susan Merrell

In addition to making the scholarship announcement, First Gen Support Services also invited first gen students to drop by the Student Success Center for a free breakfast or lunch, first gen t-shirts, and other swag to commemorate the day.

Alece Alderson, assistant vice chancellor of Student Life, who heads First Gen Support Services in that role, said, “We’re thrilled to have this opportunity to support our first gen students, and we’re optimistic that we’ll be able to offer the scholarship every year going forward. That means that every fall we can look forward to hearing about the inspirational – and indispensable – efforts of our first gen students to support each other and to bring along the next generation of life scientists and health care professionals.”

UCSF first gen students are encouraged to take advantage of the resources offered by First Gen Support Services. Postdocs, clinical fellows, faculty, and others are invited to serve as mentors. Find out how to get involved and see a full list of scholarship recipients at firstgen.ucsf.edu.