First Gen Success Story: Angelica

First-generation college students – those who are the first in their immediate family to attend college – now comprise more than one-quarter of Dominican University of California undergraduates. Each year, incoming first-gen students are invited to join the Torch Student Success Program, a powerful multi-year campus program created to cultivate leadership, develop community, and promote academic success.

Meet Angelica Gonzalez Almanza ’23

Angelica loves literature. English was her favorite subject while attending Vintage High School in Napa. And, it was her English teacher who encouraged her to check out Dominican.

“My English teacher suggested that I should apply because he believed that Dominican was the best fit for me,” she recalls. “He was not wrong.”

“I gave thought to what he was saying. After all, he had taken the time to get to know me as a person and he had a college-level education. I scheduled a campus tour and immediately fell in love with the campus.”

Angelica is majoring in global public health with a minor in community action and social change. Her goal is to pursue a career in public health – a career that will allow her to help others. She plans to pursue a master’s degree in public health and then a PhD in epidemiology.

“I hope that I will be able to work at the county level to implement policies that will overall improve the health of the public.”

Just as she hopes to help others, she also appreciates the support she has received both before and during college. She joined AVID in middle school and remained involved with the college readiness program all the way through high school.

“Being a first-generation Mexican American student I received the guidance of my AVID teacher and my high school English teachers to help me apply to college as well as writing my letters of recommendation. Furthering my education was always a goal that I wanted to achieve.”

Already familiar with the many benefits offered by student success programs, Angelica was happy to be invited to join the Torch Program. She credits the program for helping her branch out of her comfort zone during her first year at Dominican.

“Being in the program allowed me to push my social skills to the limit. As an introvert, I was extremely shy about making friends and starting college especially knowing that I would be the first one in my family to get a college education.”

The program also helped her develop leadership skills, connecting Angelica with campus leaders.

“I remember when we were doing the campus involvement seminar and thinking I want to be like them,” she recalls. “I know I want to make a change on campus and continue to build connections with others.”


The seminar gave Angelica the confidence to run for the ASDU freshman senator position, which was the beginning of her impressive involvement on campus. Today she is ASDU’s Director of Programming, EDJE Fellow, a member of the Siena Leadership Team, and Torch mentor. 
Serving as a Torch mentor allows Angelica to give back to the program that helped shape her Dominican experience.

“I want to provide help to other students who don't have the background on how to navigate college."

While the Torch staff organize the seminars and presentations, the Torch mentors oversee the fun activities for their mentees. So far they have hosted game nights and a pumpkin painting social.

“I don't think my Dominican experience would be the same if I had not attended this program,” Angelica says. “I am beyond grateful for the Torch Program and the community that I was able to build for myself with the guidance of Torch.” 

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