Working with 25 students each year who will be the first in their family to attend college, the college access team often hears fears of belonging once at a college campus. For Lily Quijada-Madrid, her first months at the University of California, Berkeley, were filled with those exact same doubts.
Growing up the Excelsior, Lily often struggled to find guidance on her path to college. With a childhood dream of becoming a physician someday, she knew college was a necessity to fulfill her dreams. But like many first-generation students, she struggled to find examples of college success in her community.
Enrolling in the Health and Behavior Science career lab at John O’Connell High School, Lily found a community of teachers and students with similar goals. Interning at UCSF General Hospital, she began to believe she could have a career in the medical field one day. Knowing that she would need a strong education to get there, she began her search for support. Partnering with the College and Career Center, Lily spent her lunch hours asking for help with applications and researching resources. Lily also joined the College Connect program during her senior year to ensure she was taking full advantage of resources for her future.
Working with volunteers, teachers, and Mission Graduates staff, Lily not only was accepted to UC Berkeley, but received a full-ride Fiat Luxe Scholarship, ensuring that she wouldn’t face financial barriers while attaining her undergraduate degree. Lily continues to find support as she begins this chapter.
After a summer of preparatory classes on campus, she continues to seek out tutors, advising, and community. And two months in, her doubts are beginning to disappear.
“I’m glad to say that I do belong here.”
Our college bound students exemplify what perseverance and determination mean – that despite the odds stacked against them, first-generation college students will overcome so much to fulfill the dream of a college degree. And with help from programs like the College and Career Center and College Connect, students like Lily will achieve amazing things.