Andrea Barajas was surprised the moment she got the news she’d received a scholarship from San Diego Foundation.
“I just started crying,” Barajas said. “I honestly did ‘cause it was really exciting to know that someone was there to support me and other people who didn’t have all the resources that they needed and so that was really exciting.”
A first-generation college student, Barajas will soon begin her freshman year at University of California, Berkeley this fall. She recently graduated from The Preuss School at UC San Diego in June.
On top of scholarships, Barajas also has financial aid and grants to help cover the thousands due to colleges for classes, housing, food and more.
“Having ways to access certain opportunities is a big thing and I think college is a really great place to do that and just furthering that education to be able to have those opportunities that weren’t always granted to people before me,” Barajas said.
For students like her, financial help is greatly appreciated and desperately needed to avoid crippling student debt for decades post-graduation.
At nearly 47%, California holds the largest proportion of first-generation college students in schools nationwide.
Barajas is just one of many first-generation college students who received help from San Diego Foundation (SDF) this year. 2023’s scholarship season was a record-breaking one for the foundation, tallying up to $4 million in funds granted out to local students.
A majority of them are the first in their families to attend college and are from economically low-middle-income communities that are historically underrepresented in higher education. On average, students received an average of $4,000 in scholarships.
Since 1997, the Community Scholarship Program has awarded more than $50 million to more than 13,000 college students from San Diego, making the program the largest non-university scholarship provider in San Diego County.
Collaboration & Community
Nonprofit organizations like the Barrio Logan College Institute (BLCI) partner with the San Diego Foundation Community Scholar Initiative, that helps hundreds of young San Diegans prepare for, pay for and persist through college. At BLCI, they know and understand the first-generation student well.
The organization’s mission is to “break the cycle of poverty by helping underserved students become the first in their families to go to college.”
A college and career specialist at the Barrio Logan College Institute, Julian Villalvazo said the cost of college is the biggest barrier for the students he serves – including Barajas, who he started working with when she was in 10th grade.
Villalvazo said at BLCI, every student who graduates from the institute goes to college and 71% of them graduate with a bachelor’s degree.
“We’re seeing a lot more students that are the first in their families to get a college degree and that’s furthering our families along and hopefully collectively our communities along and that’s really what we want to do,” Villalvazo said.