This week’s UC Santa Barbara commencement festivities are a celebration of many firsts. For 43 percent of graduates, they will be the first in their family to graduate from a four-year institution. This incredible statistic has been steadily growing over the last decade thanks to efforts by the UCs to recruit and support first-generation students. In addition to the UCs’ commitment, UCSB has taken matters into its own hands and created the Promise Scholars initiative to help low-income, high-achieving students succeed. This year, the first class of Promise Scholars, the majority of whom are also first-generation grads, will be walking across the stage to claim their well-earned degrees.
The program is the first of its kind in the country and guarantees a group of high-achieving, low-income Californians a four-year scholarship to UC Santa Barbara. In return, students must maintain a grade-point average of 2.75. However, the 122 graduates this year have a cumulative GPA of 3.23 and are outperforming the freshman class of 2015 they came in with. In addition to the countless hours of hard work, their success can be traced back to the network of resources and support provided to the scholars through regular check-ins with Program Manager Holly Roose. Roose also coaches students on time management and connects them to resources across campus if their grades start slipping.
Genesis Codina, a Promise Scholar and first-generation student graduating with a bachelor’s degree in global studies and a minor in anthropology, told UCSB’s The Current what the program has meant to her. “[With the program] I’ve always felt I have someone to go to for questions and that I’m not lost. Those resources are super important, and they have definitely helped my success here.”
Today the program boasts 428 scholars with an incoming class of 104 expected for the fall.