01 Dec 2022
First Generation College Students Find Their Path Through College Visions
Yuselly Mendoza’s parents emigrated to Rhode Island from Guatemala with hopes of giving their children a better life, including a college education.
But who would help Yuselly, who grew up in Providence and attended the city’s public schools, research colleges? Who would not only help her to find the best fit, but more importantly a school she could afford? Who would help her fill out the financial aid forms? Who would guide her through the college admissions process? Once she was enrolled in college, who would provide support as she navigated a new path toward her goal of becoming the first in her family to earn a college degree?
As a first-generation college student, Yuselly needed help to gain college access and achieve success.
College Visions was there to step in and provide the support she and so many first-generation college students so desperately need.
Empowering low income, first-generation students
For nearly 20 years, College Visions has empowered low-income, first-generation students to enroll in college, pursue a degree and graduate. The Providence-based non-profit organization guides and supports students from the admission process through college graduation
Yuselly juggled three jobs to support her family and pay for her education and became the first college graduate in her family when she walked across the stage and received her diploma from Rhode Island College. Yuselly, now 30, is a Health Equity Zone project officer at the Rhode Island Department of Health.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today without College Visions,” she said “Though my dreams felt unreachable, College Visions consistently ensured that it was all possible. From the very beginning, CV immediately saw great potential in me, even when I didn’t. Their care packages, email check-ins, and one-on-one meetings were needed reminders to never quit. CV always saw the brightest moments in my darkest times. I couldn’t have achieved my academic goal without their endless support,” said Yuselly, who is still in close contact with her former College Visions mentor.
“We tell our students, ‘Let me know what you need. We’re here for you and we can help you’,” said Moira Hinderer, director of development for College Visions.
The organization currently works with 500 students, of which 100 percent are first-generation college students and more than 95 percent are students of color. Close to 70 percent of CV’s students earn a college degree within six years, which is significantly higher – 25 percent – than the average graduation rate for Rhode Island’s low-income students. College Vision is celebrating 450 college graduates in 2022.
The son of a single father, Lamont Gordon grew up in low-income neighborhoods, moved around often and attended seven schools in eight years. When the rent was due and the money was scarce, he and his dad were forced to move. The one constant, he said, was the importance of education. A first-generation college student who holds degrees from Brown University and Harvard University, Lamont is the newly appointed executive director of College Visions. He knows first-hand the support students of color from low-income areas need to succeed.
“I’m excited to join College Visions and work with partners like the Papitto Opportunity Connection (POC) as we seek to build on our incredible track record of creating pathways to higher education for students from underserved communities. Moving forward, we want to continue to grow – the number of students we serve, our geographical footprint, and our program services – by expanding recruitment, building strategic partnerships, and developing new programming that will not only help our students get to and through college but will also help them transition into careers and community leadership,” said Lamont. “And we want to continue to be a voice in conversations at the local and national level around equity and access in higher education.”
With the support from the Papitto Opportunity Connection, College Visions will continue to expand and provide support to first generation students of color across Rhode Island.
“Papitto Opportunity Connection made a powerful investment in the youth of color served by College Visions. This generous support has allowed CV to work with more students, increase the direct support we provide to students for emergency expenses, and invest in innovative programming such as our First Annual First-Gen Career Summit. We are incredibly grateful to have POC as a partner in this work,” said Lamont.