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  • Writer's pictureAICCU

First-Generation Student Finds Community at Santa Clara University

Updated: Sep 7, 2023

Santa Clara University student Hydeia Wysinger
Photo Courtesy of Hydeia Wysinger.

Hydeia Wysinger enrolled in Santa Clara University (SCU) in 2021 after graduating from Holy Names High School in Oakland. Higher education has always been a goal for her and she researched several institutions in her senior year to find which one would be the perfect fit for her and her academic pursuits. Hydeia ultimately decided to attend SCU because of the specialized support it offered to first-generation students through the LEAD Scholars Program.

“Even though you got into this school and your resume and your accolades can show that you are more than capable—more than worthy—of being here, there’s that feeling of ‘Oh my gosh, I don’t know if I deserve that seat at the table,’” Hydeia said. “I feel like that’s very common among first-generation college students. There’s familial pressure, as well, of wanting to give back to family and wanting to do this for family.”

SCU’s LEAD Scholars Program is focused on academic success and community engagement and is specifically oriented toward first-generation college students. The program provides academic and vocational development opportunities, supportive advising, peer mentoring, and community building through various courses, programs, and support networks.

Santa Clara University campus
Located in the heart of Silicon Valley, Santa Clara University blends high-tech innovation with a social consciousness grounded in the Jesuit educational tradition. Photo Courtesy of Santa Clara University.

Hydeia is now a rising junior at SCU, pursuing a double major in Psychology and Public Health and minors in Religious Studies and Political Science. She is involved in a variety of activities on campus and is a peer health educator, an orientation leader, and an admissions ambassador. She is also a part of the Black Student Union and the pre-health fraternity, Delta Epsilon Mu. Hydeia is working towards a future career in psychology, with a focus on mental health advocacy in adolescents.

“Reflecting on my past two years [at SCU] thus far, I’m so happy with the community I’ve built with students and my peers,” Hydeia said. “I have such a great network of friends and people to ground me who make it exciting to go here. I’ve been stretched to think differently and be involved in so many things and meet so many people.”

Before she could get to where she is, Hydeia had to research all her higher education options and figure out what requirements were needed at each individual institution. She says applying for college can be such a broad concept and many applicants do not know where to start. Some institutions used the Common App while some had their own application. Admission essay questions were different. Many students and their families also needed to learn how to complete the FAFSA and explore other financial aid options. It was a lot for her and her family to digest.

Hydeia attended open houses, information sessions, and other admissions outreach events to learn as much as she could about each institution that she was interested in. She researched and applied to 17 colleges before she decided on SCU.

SCU is a medium-sized school and Hydeia valued the ability to form closer relationships with her professors and peers thanks to the smaller class sizes. She says her family was very supportive of her decision to attend a private institution and assured her that there were resources available to help her achieve her goals.

“[My mom] was like, ‘It will work out, there’s resources out there, we just got to find them.’” Hydeia said, “The price tag of Santa Clara University is nowhere near where I pay. I’m thankful to the donors and scholarships and different grants I’ve received to make that possible.”

The California Private College is Possible Initiative (CPCP) was launched this year to provide a centralized resource for students interested in attending a private institution in California. The initiative hopes to connect students with all the information they need to confidently pursue a private education. Explore the CPCP website to learn more.


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