First Generation Student Support

Navigating graduate school can be difficult, especially for those who may be the first in their families to pursue a higher education. We aim to assist our first-generation students by offering resources and support tailored to their needs.


The STRIVE Scholars program has given me a place to thrive and blossom. In this space, all of me is accepted and my past traumas are healed. I’ve learned that I am worthy, powerful and resilient. Today, I stand as living proof that a gay Latino belongs in graduate school.

Jesse Galvan '23

What is the STRIVE Scholars Program?

First-generation scholars will always be first-generation—undergraduate, graduate school, careers. The STRIVE Scholars Program is a space where first-generation students can share their journey being understood and also recognize their cultural wealth as an asset. They are supported by a community of other first-generation scholars who all share one common goal: giving back to their communities.

The Strive scholars program offers academic, cultural and leadership development opportunities to first-generation graduate students in the Counselor Education program at Cal Lutheran. We continue to work towards improving educational experiences and outcomes for this important student population. We are committed to maintaining a supportive learning environment in which first-generation students feel a strong sense of belonging, as well as personal and academic success.

Our program is based on Cultural Wealth and Emotionally Intelligent Leadership frameworks. We understand the interconnectedness with each other and the world around us and honor the Mayan concept of Inlak’ech which is translated to “you are my other me.” Honoring this concept, we take time to understand and reflect on ourselves and our personal and professional growth as we continue this journey to serve as leaders and advocates in the world.

How does the program work?

How to apply

To apply to be a member of the incoming cohort, you must first be admitted into the Counselor Education program. The online application for STRIVE Scholars allows you to share your experience as a first generation college student and your goals as a graduate student.

Please note that you must be able to commit to attending at least three workshops in the first year of the program to be considered to be a STRIVE mentor in the second year or express interest in presenting at professional conferences as part of the program. The incoming cohort members will be announced within the first two weeks of the fall semester.

Start Your Application

What Our Students Say
Veronica Barragan

The STRIVE Scholars program allowed me to meet current mentors, share our stories, and network. It helped me strengthen my communication skills and gain confidence in my voice. It has also allowed me to highlight my leadership skills as a mentor to three first-year graduate mentees.

Veronica R. Barragan '22
Aldo Campos-Garcia

The STRIVE Scholars program provided a space where I could utilize my cultural wealth and lived experiences as transformative tools that help me succeed as a first-generation graduate student. It’s programs like these that help you find your purpose in your career as an educator. Many students face adversities that hinder their opportunities for a post-secondary education, however, it only takes one educator to believe in them. I want to be that educator for students.

Aldo Campos-Garcia, M.S. '21

Norma Meza

The STRIVE Scholars program is geared to helping first-generation students find their voice, feel a sense of belonging and achieve personal and academic success. This program is preparing me for success in my career because it is providing me with academic and personal knowledge to help me build my self-confidence, navigate the educational system and gain experience in counseling.

Norma Meza '22
Vanessa Gonzalez

As a first-generation student, I wanted to be a part of a safe and courageous community that would provide unconditional support, love and validation. Through the STRIVE Scholars Program, I discovered the warrior inside of me and created the champion I want for my future students.

Vanessa Gonzalez, M.S. '21

Alejandro Rodriguez

As a first-generation student, mentorship was a great help to me in navigating new systems I was exposed to. This program allows me to grow as a mentor which is a large aspect of educational counseling. It also prepares me to be a leader in the program, school site and community. The best thing this program provided me was the ability to build a community of like-minded individuals who are all striving to be better versions of themselves with a common goal to help others.

Alejandro Rodriguez '22
Maria Sandoval

The STRIVE Scholars program has given me the tools to enhance my interpersonal skills, be aware of my cultural wealth and move towards cultural proficiency. I’ve had the opportunity to network with wonderful people and improve my professional and personal development.

Maria Sandoval '22

Gabriela Jasso Ambriz

I would recommend other first-generation students to join the STRIVE Scholars Program because they find and build supportive relationships with professors and other first-generation students. It also gives you the opportunity to present at conferences, which helps boost your confidence and resume.

Gabriela Jasso Ambriz '22
Mireya Milian

In the STRIVE Scholars program, I was able to merge my background with my profession, something that I felt were two separate entities in my life. My story is powerful and unique, I can openly honor the decisions my family has taken so I can pursue my education and achieve my wildest dreams. I would recommend this program to students who want to dig deeper with their own cultural reflections and braid their personal, scholar and professional first-generation identities.

Mireya Milian, M.S. '20

Alexandria Sosa

Through the STRIVE Scholars program, I was able to co-present a workshop on Resiliency Building and Goal Setting at the Adelante Mujer Latina Conference at Pasadena City College. It was an amazing experience to collaborate with a peer and inspire young latinas. This program has also introduced me to alumni and professors in the counseling field who share their experiences with us, giving me first-hand knowledge of what it will be like as a school counselor.

Alexandria Sosa, M.S. '21
Fatima Hernandez

As a STRIVE Scholar, you get to meet new people, make professional connections and explore your field. It helped to instill confidence in me and got me out of my comfort zone by presenting and reflecting on my own culture, strengths and skills. I was able to present at two professional conferences with my classmates, CASC and MALCS.

Fatima Hernandez, M.S. '21

Tatiana Magna

The imposter syndrome has definitely been a struggle for me, feeling like I don’t deserve to be in graduate school. Fortunately, the STRIVE Scholars Program challenges those beliefs and shows us how we can be the best leaders and advocates for ourselves, community and our future students.

Tatiana Magana '23
Erin Nosco

As a first-generation student, I always try to seek community-building programs that offer me the chance to connect with others. The program is preparing me for success by teaching me about emotional intelligence, creating a welcoming space where people understand my struggles, and allowing me to learn from first-generation school counselors in the field.

Erin Nosco '23

Selena Lainez

I applied to be a member of the STRIVE Scholars Program because I wanted to take advantage of all the resources, mentorship, guidance and support that Cal Lutheran offers its students. Professor Rowley and Dr. Coronado are culturally aware of our communities and remind us why our presence matters in this program. Through the activities, we’re reminded that there will be obstacles that present themselves, but we can overcome any barriers by remembering who we are and the power of our stories. My favorite aspect of the program is sharing an open but safe space with other students who share the same goals and vision I share, which is to be the best counselor possible for our younger generations.

Selena Lainez '22