Our mission is to help San Francisco students finish high school and become first generation college graduates well prepared to pursue meaningful careers. We make them a 10-year commitment from seventh grade through college graduation. Each student receives hundreds of hours of free coaching annually. They also learn about the careers that are open to them with a college education, have the opportunity to develop career networks, and are coached on everything from high school and college applications to resume writing and interviewing skills.
Imagine if we could establish a college going tradition for every family in San Francisco.
Organization description, background, and history
Two philanthropists began First Graduate based on the premise that helping the first child of a family to graduate from college results in exponential benefits for the family as a whole, both economically and by spawning a college-going tradition.
91% of our students qualify for free or reduced lunch; 74% live at or below 200% of the poverty line; 85% are immigrants or children of.
Students receive one-on-one coaching to fulfill their aspirations of graduating from college as career-ready young professionals. And, they learn non-cognitive skills: grit, integrity, leadership, social intelligence, open-mindedness, love of learning, and self-control, so they can navigate challenges they may face in their careers and beyond.
The Challenge in San Francisco
San Francisco suffers from a significant social and economic divide between families with a college-going tradition, and those without one. Getting a college degree matters. People who complete college have higher rates of employment and lifetime earnings, higher engagement in civic activities such as voting and volunteering, and live healthier lifestyles.
Further, this inequity perpetuates itself. The educational attainment of parents is often a significant predictor of future educational attainment of their children. In San Francisco Unified School District, 83% of students have parents who are not college graduates. Without help, only 11% of first generation students obtain a college degree. This achievement gap also has significant implications for San Francisco's economy. Over the next 10 years, the Association of Bay Area Governments projects a 33% increase in available jobs in the Bay Area. Nearly 73% of employment growth is expected to be in professional services, health and education, and leisure and hospitality sectors, making college degrees more important than ever to build a career. It is estimated that 60% of new jobs created by 2018 will require a college degree or higher.
First Graduate believes that the root cause of this gap is a disparity in access to resources and information about successfully navigating the K-12 and higher education systems. This disparity is particularly stark at the middle school level. First Graduate begins its work with these children, who are most often attending lower-performing, under-resourced schools that struggle to prepare them for the rigors of a college preparatory high school environment.
How We Meet the Challenge
We recruit and enroll students from two low-performing middle schools in the southeastern corridor of San Francisco. By enrolling 20% of their seventh graders, we will help build a college-going culture within the schools and improve the overall achievement of these schools, moving closer to closing the achievement gap. When we reach more children in neighborhoods with the greatest need, we can go beyond transforming individual trajectories to transforming the futures of whole communities.
Embedding our program in key middle schools can influence the college-going culture, enable us to collaborate on extra-curricular programs, and share parent engagement strategies. This "Halo effect" will positively influence the students who are not directly participating in the program. And, by increasing the number of students we help, First Graduate hopes to achieve a tipping point in SFUSD, significantly reducing the alarmingly wide achievement gap based on race/ethnicity, language and neighborhood.
Where We Work
What We Do
Our students receive free coaching over a 10 year period â€“ from sixth grade through college graduation. All 420 students get academic tutoring, high school and college application assistance, and they participate in family events, career exploration activities, and gain access to college scholarships.