To do well in school and pave the way for a successful life that includes a college education, students need to have the resources necessary to get good grades. For many, that will set you in the direction of living a successful life.

However, this reality can remain out of reach for numerous students, especially those in underserved communities that lack essential resources and support. Fortunately, organizations like Nativity Prep Academy are stepping in to bridge these gaps by offering ongoing support to empower students to thrive in school and become leaders in their communities.

Nativity Prep Academy is a San Diego Foundation (SDF) nonprofit fundholder dedicated to strengthening our community by breaking the cycle of generational poverty through an effective, integrated program of academic preparation, graduate support and long-term commitment that results in nationally recognized college graduation rates for its students.

That is why this private, independent, all-scholarship Catholic middle school and college access and preparatory program offers 11 years of support to young men and women from low-income households who are the first generation to graduate from college. This program helps students to excel in high school, college and in life to become role models and leaders in their communities.

To grasp the scope of Nativity Prep Academy’s work, it is important to first understand the key facts and data about first-generation college students.

Nativity Prep

First-generation students

According to the Center for First-Generation Student Success, 54% of college students are first generation, or the first in their families to obtain a bachelor’s degree, with 73%, 65% and 64% of  Latino/a, Black or African American or Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander college students being first generation, respectively.

Center for First-Generation Student Success data also shows that there’s a wide gap in the median income for families of first-generation versus continuing-generation college students. In 2020, data shows that the median income of families of first-generation college students was $41,000 annually as compared to $103,000 annually for families of continuing-generation college students.

Unsurprisingly, data from the U.S. Census Bureau, a household with a high school education earned a median annual income of $50,401 per year, while a household with a bachelor’s degree earned more than double that amount, earning $105,552.

First-generation students experience more college debt than non-first-generation students, in addition to being from lower-income families. Compared to 56% of continuing-generation students, 66% of first-generation college students stated educational debt.

Regarding first-generation college students’ graduation rates, Pew Research Center reports that 60% of students with at least one college-educated parent were more likely to get their bachelor’s degree, compared to only 20% of first-generation students with parents who did not have a college degree.

According to data, first-generation college graduates earn less than their continuing-generation colleagues. For example, the average household income of a first-generation college graduate ($99,600) is lower than the income of a continuing generation graduate ($135,800).

Being a first-generation college student can present unique challenges. It’s wonderful to see schools and college programs like Nativity Prep Academy provide academic and financial opportunities to under-resourced students, which will enhance outcomes for first-generation students and help reduce the generational wealth gap.

Nativity Prep

Improving Students’ Lives

Nativity Prep Academy and its programs have helped 247 first-generation students participate in its 11-year program. These students are also 5 times more likely to graduate college than other historically underserved students. The Academy has also awarded $1 million in scholarships to students annually.

Nativity Prep Academy continues to transform the lives of its students and their families in San Diego County.

Nativity Prep

Interview with Nativity Prep Academy

Nativity Prep Academy Director of Marketing & Communications Beatriz Cabanas spoke with us about how establishing a nonprofit agency endowment fund helps the organization grow and sustain its programs of academic preparation, graduate support, and mutual long-term commitment for students in the future. Responses have been edited for clarity and length.

What were the reasons you decided to set up an agency endowment fund at SDF?

Nativity Prep was drawn to SDF because of its mission to improve the quality of life in our region. It was a natural fit to set up our endowment with an organization focusing on increasing access to education.

Our mission at Nativity Prep is to provide our students with a uniquely effective program of academic preparation, graduate support, and mutual long-term commitment that achieves the goal of college graduation. By partnering with a mission-aligned organization, we can continue to empower our students to excel through high school, college and become role models and leaders in San Diego and beyond.

Why is organizational longevity and sustainability important to your work?

In 2001, Nativity Prep began with just 15 students in the 6th grade class. Over the past 23 years, we have grown and now support 72 middle school students, 84 high school students, 113 college students, and three graduate students. Our growth over the past two decades is a testament to the importance of our program. Our work impacts the lives of both students and their families.

Due to limited resources, we are currently turning away qualified families during the admissions process. We aspire to one day be able to admit all qualified students who want to attend Nativity Prep.

By inspiring the philanthropic community, our dream can grow Nativity Prep into a place where we can provide all deserving students and families with the resources they need to graduate and excel in college.

How does funding sustainability help your students, educators and programs?

Nativity Prep has a loyal and committed donor base that helps us achieve our mission. We fundraise for every dollar, it is important that we build relationships with our supporters and inspire them to do the same with our students and their families.

We are actively cultivating and building a donor pipeline to raise current gifts and to develop a long-term planned giving strategy for nurturing larger endowment gifts to build operational capacity.

Building our endowment with SDF contributes to Nativity Prep’s long-term sustainability. We want to preserve and expand our program to benefit current and future generations of Nativity Prep students.

Do your donors see the value in your organization having an endowment fund?

At Nativity Prep, we offer our supporters a variety of ways to contribute to our mission. Multiple channels of giving allow our donors to participate in a way that is comfortable for them.

Our donors are passionate about ending generational poverty by providing a college education for our hard-working young students. They understand the value and importance of an endowment fund, which supports the longevity of our school and our mission.

Learn more about Nonprofit Endowment Funds