The mission of First in Family Fund (FIFF), a registered 501C3 nonprofit, is to provide mentorship, guidance, test-preparation, and academic support services to students who are the first in ones in their family striving to attain a college degree– at little to no cost. Such students would be identified early on, and they would receive the tutoring and mentorship they need from as early as 6th grade.
Seeing a need for a higher quality pre-college education, Frances Kweller founded a private educational services organization called Kweller Prep (KP) in 2009. This organization has since blossomed to provide tutoring, mentorship, and support services for the college-bound. Kweller and her team of tutors identified that top college readiness happens years in advance, and much outside support is needed for those who are the first sibling or first child in a family to navigate the college admissions process. Experience and research allowed the team to see that they could use the same successful model implemented at KP to help students from low-income immigrant communities overcome the systemic barriers blocking their access to higher education. Establishing FIFF was a critical choice to meet this need.
With the help of sponsors, the FIFF can continue to deliver high-quality mentoring and training to a substantial number of students whose chances for success without us decrease exponentially. The cost of guiding one student through the process of preparing for and successfully taking his or her college entrance exams with high quality tutoring is $10,000 starting grade 6. Our board is asking you to consider underwriting the mentorship and training of at least one student.
“A student who is the first one in his or her family to go to top college needs additional support and mentorship to succeed and that support starts years before he or she applies to college.”
In 1970, 17% of recently arrived immigrants ages 25 to 64 had graduated from college and 33% had minimal formal education (middle school or less). In 2009, 35% of recently arrived immigrants had college degrees and only 20% had minimal educational attainment.
“Strong educational progress occurs across generations.”
The children and grandchildren of immigrants as a whole tend to be much better educated than their parents. Among first-generation immigrants age 57 to 66, 36% have not graduated from high school, compared to only 8% of second-generation descendants in their children’s age cohort (30–39). After the second generation, the proportion of immigrants age 30 to 39 without high school diplomas drops to 6%.
Sample FIFF candidate student college essay 1:
At exactly 7:00 pm on October 12, 2006, my mother and I had to return to the Abyssinian House Homeless Shelter, which was our home when I was growing up. My sister, Marina, was in labor at the nearby hospital and the doctors expected to deliver her baby around midnight. Unfortunately, my mother and I could not be there, since we had to adhere to the strict curfews of the Abyssinian House and arriving late would put us in jeopardy of immediate dismissal from the shelter. If we risked breaking curfew, we would be left on the streets in the depths of a miserably rainy night in Harlem, with no possibility for financial support or shelter. Therefore, since my mother and I had no other place to go, we held back our tears as we parted with my sister and began to head back “home.” That night, my sister delivered a healthy baby girl. We visited Marina and my niece bright and early the next morning.
I had a fairly atypical childhood and spent several years of it growing up homeless. My mother battled with Hepatitis C for as long as I can remember and her illness prevented her from maintaining steady employment. Times were tough—to say the least, but I persevered through them, and grew into the strong, independent, determined girl I am today. I consider myself an incredibly lucky girl for many reasons. I have always had my mother by my side, no matter how ill she was, or how tough times were. She has served as my pillar in so many ways, and I am very fortunate that she brought me into this beautiful world, raised me on her own, and instilled in me the drive to persevere despite any hardships that have come my way. Seeing my mother struggle with money and suffer with her illness was very hard for me. Many times, I wanted to be strong for my mother but I could not hold back my tears.
Often, I felt useless and worthless because I couldn’t bring back my mother’s health or provide us with a safe place to live. I turned to God to answer my prayers. Every day I would pray to God to change my life. One day He did; I received a full ride scholarship to attend a very affluent all girls’ high school in Manhattan. By working hard in high school, I knew I could make my life better and never have to return to living under such circumstances. I pursued an education wholeheartedly and constantly worked towards achieving my goals making sure I got good grades, worked to support my mother, and never forget where I had come from. Through my teenage years school offered me a sense of stability, and a sense pride. In high school I used school as an escape. No matter how many academic honors I received, I kept pushing myself to do better and better. Both God and school became my best friends. Every day, when I came home from school I would drown myself in my books and hope for a better future.
Consequently I began to follow my dreams; I was never uncertain about achieving them, but I knew I would work my hardest to help my mother and I stabilize our living situations and more towards living a more desirable lifestyle. Although I was very embarrassed that I was homeless I was thankful to at least have a place to rest my head at night, and my experiences while there taught me to appreciate many things that can so easily be taken for granted. Perhaps one of the hardest parts about living in the shelter was that we were not allowed to have any guests sleep over or get to spend a night out with friends.
When my classmates questioned why I never invited them over, I had to constantly make up excuses as to why I could never reciprocate their invitations for a Saturday sleep over or Sunday lunch. Slowly, I felt so ashamed to be living in a shelter. I never told any of my friends what I was going through because I did not want them to judge me. I was so scared to be made fun of or treated badly. There were many times when I was embarrassed about telling my friends where I lived, my mother’s sickness, and my father’s abandonment.
After about a year in the shelter my mother and I found an apartment in the Bronx. It was the best thing that could have happened to us. Unfortunately, my mothers’ illness only progressed; I had to encourage and strengthen my mother through all of her decisions. I was scared that after all I had overcome my mothers’ health was going to diminish my stability. As sad as I was, I obeyed my mother’s wishes, which were to not let her condition interfere with my focus in school, and to keep up my grades so that the competitive colleges would realize that through my adversities I continued to put my education first.
Consequently, I aspire to maintain the same diligent and conscientious work ethic that I have in years passed, while simultaneously seeking ways to give back to my school’s community. I know that the qualities, which are instilled in me through my teenage experiences such as determination, perseverance, and diligence, are qualities that will help me towards becoming successful. I strive to apply the highest standards to both the academic and non-academic aspects of my life. I believe that my desire to apply the highest standards to my work, as well as my willingness to face difficult challenges, would enable me to flourish at your school.
FIFF sample candidate essay 2:
Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.
Rejection taught me my best lessons. My dream high school had always been Yeshiva University High School for Girls (YUHSG) in Hollis Hills, Queens. However, due to my low grades, I was rejected by the high school and my dream ended there. I was emotionally torn and felt hopeless about my future. My principal, seemingly ambivalent about my distress, spoke candidly with me, suggested that I was not “good enough” or “bright enough” to attend YUHSG and recommended that I apply to the lowest-ranked Jewish private high school. I dejectedly nodded, withholding my tears, and walked away. It was among the bleakest moments of my life.
That same day, my parents, upon the recommendation of a close relative, enrolled me in a tutoring program called Kweller Prep. Frances Kweller, the director or the program, saw the sadness in my eyes and approached me. When she asked me what was wrong, I explained to her what occurred earlier that day with my principal, and she quickly and perkily responded with, “Well, why don’t you just look into attending a public high school?” I explained to her that my parents are orthodox Jews, and that, in my case, public high schools were not an option. Nonetheless, Ms. Kweller presented me with a 500-plus-page book to take home, listing all the public schools throughout New York City. She didn’t take no for an answer and instructed me to do the same. “Just believe in yourself,” she urged, “and stay away from negativity.”
That evening, I searched through the directory along with my younger sister. To my surprise, we located an excellent public high school which was just minutes away from my home. Francis Lewis – one of the top-ranked high schools in Queens- which had an outstanding math and science program. It also featured a wide variety of academics, sports, and extracurricular activities.
Then, the hard part was bringing the idea of leaving Yeshiva to my father. Unable to muster the courage to do it myself, I asked Frances Kweller to call my father for me. She dialed his cell a minute later, then, as I anxiously awaited my father’s response, I was shocked when he calmly said to her, “OK.” I sighed a breath of relief and felt more confident about myself. My principal, however, had something different to say. She pressured me to reconsider my decision to leave the Jewish School system and attend a public high school. Despite the guilt trip, I remained resilient and confident with my decision.
Surprisingly enough, convincing my father was the easy part. I had already missed the deadline for the Francis Lewis High School application. My mother and I scheduled a meeting with the assistant principal, Ms. Palomino. I had never been that nervous in my entire life. When she saw my transcript, she didn’t seem pleased. She explained to me that my grades didn’t meet the requirements for Francis Lewis High School. At that point, I was speechless and all I could utter was, “so, I can’t come here?” After a few moments of silence, Ms. Palomino, finally said, “ You know what? I’ll give you a chance.” After she uttered these words, I burst into tears of joy and I couldn’t stop thanking her. She explained to me that I would only be allowed to stay if I maintain a passing GPA. From that day on, I made a promise to myself to try my hardest no matter what. My father was happy to hear the good news, but he explained that he would only agree to let me attend Francis Lewis High School if I continued to follow all my religious customs. Without hesitation, I agreed. I also made him promise me to keep me in Kweller Prep.
Today, I am graduating one year early from Francis Lewis High School. Unbelievable. I not only caught up in all subjects, but I skipped a grade, maintaining a solid 3.7 GPA. I aced my math and science classes and passed every regents. I am a loving daughter, adhere to the religious customs within my family, and dedicated to excelling in college and obtaining a professional degree. I am ready now, more than ever, to step into the college world and the opportunities that await me. I know I can – and I know I will succeed, despite any obstacles. I look forward to the next chapter of my journey