Sep. 21, 2017
At the start of the Fall 2016 semester, Biola’s Student Enrichment and Intercultural Development (SEID) launched the FirstGen Scholars Program, a new scholarship program awarded to first generation college students entering Biola for the first time. After a successful first year of the program, Biola decided to extend the scholars program for its second year.
Raquel Hamm, current Biola FirstGen student, reflected on how the program eased her transition into Biola.
“The FirstGen Scholars Program has definitely made an impact at the start of my Biola journey,” said Hamm. “It has given me the courage to have a voice for change and know that my voice will be heard.”
First generation students who have been accepted to Biola are eligible to apply. The selected students will become members of the FirstGen Scholars 2017 cohort and will be awarded a $2,500 scholarship per year.
“The FirstGen program is a community that I’ve learned to depend on and that has grounded me in ways I didn’t even expect,” said Joseph Morales, peer mentor in Biola’s FirstGen Program. “It’s an amazing community to be a part of for both scholarship recipients and all first-generation students at Biola. There’s a family here waiting to embrace them with open arms.”
In partnership with Office of Student Success, the Office of Diversity Initiatives first proposed the FirstGen Scholars Program June 2015 as a result of the year-long research by the Multi-Ethnic Student Success & Inclusion (MESSI) task force. As the task force reviewed relevant data and trends regarding student success and inclusion, first generation college students emerged as an important student subpopulation. Biola’s growth among first generation college student population continues to increase in accordance with similar trends in higher education.
“I am honored to serve first generation students at Biola in a more formal way,” said Tamra Malone, Director of Student Enrichment and Intercultural Development. “I have worked with many students over the years and I can definitely attest that First Gen students add to the rich diversity on our campus. First Gen students range in life experiences, age, denominational backgrounds, race/ethnicity, and will enrich the learning environment of our institution because of the their diverse perspectives.”
As of 2014, first generation college students make up 12.1% of Biola’s incoming class, which makes them a key subpopulation who adds to the rich diversity of Biola’s student body. Upon approval from Biola’s President’s Administrative Council (PAC), an implementation task force was created with representatives from across the campus including the Admissions and Financial Aid Departments, Talbot School of Theology and Residence Life.
George Garcia (‘11), Biola alumnus and current therapist and Ph.D. student, reflected on his time at Biola as a first generation college student.
“As a former first generation college student and someone who works with many first generation youth, I see the struggle that exists to be successful,” said Garcia. “When I heard that Biola was in the process of implementing a first generation program, I was overcome with excitement and joy. Biola definitely played a crucial role in my development and helped shape me into the man that I am today."
The mission of the FirstGen Scholars Program is to enhance the ability of first generation college students to thrive and persist while at Biola through strategic holistic support. Students selected for the program participate in a three-week summer bridge program and live in Blackstone Hall. In addition, they enroll in a Bible course during the fall, attend cohort connection activities, participate in faculty and peer mentoring, academic and career coaching, and also attend a kick-off event during orientation week at the start of the school year.
In order to qualify for the program, students must file the FAFSA or CA Dream Act Application and demonstrate need-based financial assistance. Students will have the option of renewing the scholarship every year as long as they show active participation in the program’s activities throughout the year.
In an effort to support first generation college students beyond those in the scholars program, all first generation college students at Biola are invited to participate in college success and life skills workshops as well as social/networking events throughout the academic year.
The application is open to incoming students who are in the first generation of their family to attend college. If you have any questions regarding this program, please email firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact Tamra Malone at (562)777-4085 or Alicia Miller Andre at (562)944-0351 ext. 4540.
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