First Gen Success Story: Fernanda

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 Fernanda Galo Reyes ’24
Fernanda received some good advice from her family during her college search.

 “They said, ‘Remember, choose what is right for you, not for us.’”

Fernanda took this advice to heart, spending many hours during her senior year at Napa High School researching which college would be right for her. She met with college representatives, talked with admissions counselors, and learned all about financial aid.

One university stood out among the many she was considering – largely because of its personal touch.

“When it was time to send my application, I sent it to Dominican University of California because I had a feeling that it was the one,” she says.

 “Dominican’s admissions counselors are extremely sweet and very kind. They make you feel welcome and loved. They also make you feel part of the Dominican community. The financial aid staff was extremely helpful, patient, and kind.”

That support has continued, largely thanks to the Torch Program.

“I really love all the presentations they present, and I feel like everything they give us will help us in our college life. They give us amazing information and advice to be a better student and person.”

The Torch Program also has helped with the social adjustment to college.

“I knew that being part of the program meant being part of a college family that was going to be there for you in your easiest and toughest times,” she says. “I am so glad I joined the Torch Program because it also gave me the confidence I needed to make friends, including outside our Torch community.”

Fernanda is majoring in chemistry with the goal of eventually working as a trauma surgeon. Her minors are history and global public health. The weekly Zoom sessions with her Torch community is helping her feel connected while working remotely this semester.

“I love how we always learn new things from each other in every Zoom session. I love that because it helps us know that we are not alone and that we all have each other.”


For those students who are now going through the college selection process, Fernanda is now the one giving advice.

“Don’t be afraid of the toughest classes, we are all smart,” she says. “It’s the students who work hard who pass their classes – you just need to work hard and have determination.”

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