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First-Generation Peer Mentorship Program

This program works with incoming first-year students who are the first in their family to complete a 4-year degree in the U.S. Students interested are paired with a student mentor who also identifies as first-generation. We believe it is important to foster these peer relationships to build a strong community. Together, the students develop the skills to not only navigate college, but also to navigate life. The key to your success, is to be fearless and open your heart to new experiences as well as seek out necessary resources. Our mentors are trained and equally supported to reach their full potential.

"Our First-Generation Peer Mentorship Program was created by students for students with the philosophy that a student not only be supported with the transition into college, but also be guided through the transition out of college."
- Christina Mayes


First-Generation Peer Mentor Retreat Spring 2014

Spring 2014 Mentor-Mentee Retreat (from left to right: Staff Sponsor Christina Mayes, Susana Abarca, Donovan Hernandez, Christine Pires, E3 Community Partner Maria Raquel Gramajo, Sayra Soriano, Victoria Escalada, Nicole Liston, and Stephany Ortiz; photo taken by A. Cochran).

Mission Statement The First-Generation Peer Mentorship Program (FGPMP) is a peer mentorship driven model for first-generation undergraduates of all majors. By participating in the FGPMP, students build relationships to overcome the legacy of underserved backgrounds, persist in school, balance the demands of life and develop leadership skills.

FGPMP empowers students to understand the relationship between their academic pursuits and their future careers by providing warm guidance and inspiring students to have a voice. Once students build connections within the campus community and attain the skills to navigate college; these life-changing opportunities help develop the confidence and skills necessary to envision themselves as true leaders in their work, families, and communities.

Our mission is to provide motivational support for undergraduates through mentorship and igniting the passion for students to seek out meaningful purpose with a positive impact to others and themselves. FGPMP is committed to working with academic and community partners as well as the broader campus community. 

LATEST UPDATE: On Thursday, May 1, 2014, six students from the FGPMP and the Dominican Freshman Student Rep, held a Q&A Information Session for 41 Healdsburg High School Students who participate in the AVID Program. In addition, one high school student from E3 was also in attendance. Ms. Luz Garcia of Healdsburg High School was the lead teacher of this group and is also a Dominican Alumna. This panel of Dominican students truly highlighted the notable challenges many students encounter when transitioning to college. Their shared experiences were warmly received.

First-Generation Q&A Panel

Dominican Q&A Student Panel (From left to right: Donovan Hernandez, Nicole Liston, Victoria Escalada, Sayra Soriano, Susana Abarca, Christine Pires, and Alexander Herrera)

First-Generation Q&A Panel Panoramic


Christine Pires, Communications Major, F13 First-Year Student
Christine Pires, Communications Major, Fall 2013 First-Year Student. Completing LeaderShape I-Sight Survey. (Jan. 2014)


For this academic year (2013-2014), our program has partnered with Dr. JuanCarlos Arauz, the founder and creator of E3: Education, Excellence, and Equity. In working with Dr. Arauz and his brilliant Program Coordinator, Ms. Maria Raquel Gramajo, the students are provided with another layer of diverse leadership and support. E3 volunteers their time and commitment to this young Dominican program. The shared vision for historically underrepresented youth reaching their highest potential bridges the relationship to close the educational gap.

In addition to this community partner, the program also receives warm guidance from our Dominican Staff and Faculty such as Mr. Todd Herriott (Director of Disability Services, Staff Sponsor of BSU, Diversity Action Group Member), Ms. Alice Cochran (Professor in Business and Leadership, Diversity Action Group Member, LeaderShape and Rotaract Faculty Sponsor), and Radica Ostojic-Portello (Professor and Advisor for Spanish).


In 2011, an opportunity was brought to Dominican's campus community. With our new President, Dr. Mary Marcy, the institution was presented with a challenge to work collaboratively and propose new programs, research, service learning trips, and other campus efforts, to enrich the success of our students. A group of Occupational Therapy (OT) Senior Thesis students were already working on a thesis project to develop a training module for first-generation mentors. These students identified as first in their family to complete a 4-year degree and were also at that point, completing their Masters level work. For these students, they saw an opportunity to utilize their education within Occupational Therapy and view the first-generation as possessing a clinical need. Through much research and determination, as well as strong faculty advisor support, their program based on the traditional occupational theory of how one occupies their time was proposed and approved for a strategic initiative grant; piloted for Fall 2012.

Fall 2012 First-Generation Peer Mentor CohortFall 2012 Pilot Group

In Fall 2012, mentors were trained and first-year first-generation students were invited to participate. By Fall 2013, selected mentees from the Fall 2012 cohort were invited to become mentors.

This Spring 2014, a new group of OT Senior Master Thesis students continued the research from the first cohort of students who created this program. This research helps educators better understand the experience of the mentor. Recently this student research group was selected to present their findings at this year's First-Year Experience Conference, February 17, 2014.

UPDATE: Ms. Julia Wong, OTS, Ms. LaShelle Rullan, OTS, and Ms. Jovita Vazquez, OTS, completed their Master Thesis Project. Ms. Wong and Ms. Rullan presented their research as the Poster Presentation for the 2014 First-Year Experience Conference in San Diego, CA. Many conference attendees were interested in their OT Master Thesis, "Peer Mentoring: Helping First Year Students Develop Occupational Adaptation Skills."

Spring 2014 OT Master Thesis Poster PresentationPoster Presentation at FYE Conference 2014, Rullan and Wong

Spring 2014: Occupational Therapy Master Thesis Poster Presentation at the First-Year Experience Conference, February 17, 2014. (From left to right, Photo 1: Christina Mayes, Stacy Frauwirth, LaShelle Rullan, and Julia Wong; photo taken by E. Mayes. Photo 2: LaShelle Rullan and Julia Wong with conference attendee; photo taken by C. Mayes.).


What does "First-Generation" mean? How do I know if I qualify?

"First-Generation" is a term related to your families level of higher education. When thinking of your immediate family, did your parent(s) or caregiver complete a 4-year degree? If not, then you are considered first-generation. Even if your parent(s) or caregiver complete some college, you are still considered first-generation. In addition, if your older sibling already attended college or is enrolled in college now, you are still considered first-generation.

There is a 2014 documentary film, "First Generation," created by Adam and Jaye Fenderson, which shares the story of four high school students facing the challenges in college access. Viewing this short clip may help with understanding what it means to be first-generation. There are many outlets for information on this topic. If you are a potential incoming student or a current student, we encourage you to be open about your story and share the barriers and challenges you may have or are currently facing. 

If I state I am "first-generation" on a college application or on my Free Application For Student Aid (FAFSA)*, will this impact my potential for being admitted to a University?

No. Accurately completing college applications and the FAFSA is always best. Colleges and Universities do not weigh in your parent(s) or caregivers level of education when reviewing your application for admittance. In addition, there may be more funding and programming opportunities for you based on this knowledge. *Remember, priority deadline for submitting FAFSA is March 2nd.


The Program Coordinator for the First-Generation Peer Mentorship Program is Christina Mayes. Mrs. Mayes is the First-Year Advisor at Dominican who works specifically with exploring undeclared students


 Phone: 415-458-3781

Dominican University of California
50 Acacia Avenue, San Rafael, CA 94901
Bertrand Bldg, RM 109

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