Their dreams are as endless as their potential.

The first nine graduating First Generation Initiative Scholars have goals of going into education, social work, optometry, business, graphic design, law and psychology.

These nine smiling faces — who will receive their diplomas Saturday, May 10 — represent the success of a program that began four years ago to assist students from underserved populations with achieving their educational goals.

Saint Mary’s First Generation Initiative was created to break down barriers to higher education by providing high potential students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds with not only financial support, but also academic support. Through the generosity of benefactors, First Generation Scholars from Saint Mary’s partner schools receive full financial support; enhanced student services (tutoring, literacy classes, advising, evening study hours with upperclassmen, mentoring and cultural and social activities) and faculty collaboration (including a literacy specialist and faculty assistance).

Graduating seniors include: Cynthia Garcia, Daniela Martinez, Ibrahim Dickey, Maribel Luna, Nicxie Mazon, Mayra Rodriguez, Patricia Nguyen, Carla Olivares and Yasmin Duarte. The Winona campus will hold a joint commencement ceremony including both Winona undergraduate and graduate students beginning at 11 a.m. in the gymnasium.

Friends and benefactors are invited to the First Generation Initiative SOAR Breakfast on May 21 at the Saint Mary’s University Center in Minneapolis. Last year’s event raised more than $186,000 for the FGI program. Speakers this year include Brother Robert Smith, vice president for Schools of Graduate and Professional Programs; Mary Ann Remick, chair of the FGI Advisory Board; Dan Hunt ’78, event chair; and Dr. Jane Anderson, director of First Generation Initiative.

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