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  • Writer's pictureScripps College

Scripps College Program Supports First-Generation Student Success and Well-Being

Scripps College students Taylor Tsiamas and Bernice Abanda
Bernice Abanda, left, and Taylor Tsiamas, right, are both first-generation students participating in the First-Generation @ Scripps program. Photo Courtesy of Scripps College.

This article was originally published on on October 26, 2022.


In mid-August, before many new Scripps students arrived on campus for New Student Programs and Orientation (NSPO), Taylor Tsiamas ’24 and Bernice Abanda ’25 hosted a pre-orientation for first-generation, or “first-gen” students. The label generally refers to students who are the first in their family to attend college. As first-gen students themselves, Tsiamas and Abanda work at the Office of Scripps Communities of Resources and Empowerment (SCORE) as First-Generation @ Scripps interns.

“The First-Gen @ Scripps program has totally changed my experience at Scripps,” says Tsiamas. As a junior who experienced their first year during pandemic-induced remote learning, Tsiamas struggled to find belonging. “Because I got to meet people in the First-Gen program, it was super helpful to make me feel more connected to Scripps.”

First-Gen @ Scripps was founded in the fall of 2010 by Melissa Mesinas ’12, a first-gen Scripps alum who is currently the Consortium for Faculty Diversity Fellow and a visiting assistant professor of psychology. The program began as a three-day pre-orientation event, now affectionately nicknamed “Pre-O,” which today exposes first-gen students to topics of navigating academics, knowing campus resources, understanding financial aid, getting involved at Scripps and The Claremont Colleges, meeting with student leaders, and connecting with other first-gen students, staff, and faculty.

“Coming to college as a first-gen and low-income student, there were so many things I was unaware of,” says Abanda. “But knowing that I wasn’t the only one experiencing and feeling similar feelings of imposter syndrome was comforting. The friends I made during Pre-O are some of my closest friends today.”

Under the guidance and leadership of the First-Gen Coordinator and Assistant Director of Scripps Communities of Resources and Empowerment (SCORE) Elba Mandujano, First-Gen @ Scripps hosts social events, mixers, and collaborative programming with faculty liaisons and offices such as Career Planning & Resources.

Scripps College is a top-ranked, private, residential women’s liberal arts college, founded in 1926 by newspaper publisher and philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps. Photo Courtesy of Scripps College.

As First-Gen interns at SCORE, Tsiamas and Abanda send out a bi-weekly First-Gen newsletter to update students on upcoming events. The program also facilitates a mentorship program in which first-year first-gen students are paired with first-gen sophomore, junior, and senior mentors based on shared academic and personal interests.

Both Tsiamas and Abanda express great gratitude for First-Gen @ Scripps and the community it creates for them on campus.

“Having the safety net of the First-Gen community made my transition bearable,” says Abanda. “I’m so grateful for this program and the community I found here, and I continue to vouch for it completely.”

The pair’s involvement in the program have motivated them to develop other resources for first-gen students like themselves.

“Because higher education systems are very inaccessible for a lot of different reasons, having that institutional support is super important to our success but also our wellbeing,” says Tsiamas. “Not only does first-generation programming assist in students’ transition to college, but it also validates their identities and experiences.”

“My identity as a first-gen Black woman is something that is unique to me,” Abanda reflects. “And being a part of First-Gen @ Scripps has welcomed that and positively shaped my experience as a Scripps student.”


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