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LWHS’ Inaugural College Tour for First Gen Students

For several years now, Lick-Wilmerding High School has sought more and deeper ways to support First Generation students on their journey to college and beyond. One of our longtime dreams has been to provide a school-sponsored college visit trip, and we are thrilled to share that this year, that dream became a reality!

In February 2024, a group of students and LWHS faculty and staff set forth our inaugural First-Generation-to-College Tour! 14 students, along with Gabriela Mejia, Co-Director of College Counseling, Dee Johnson, Directory of Equity & Inclusion, and Matthew Oakland, Director of Student Inclusion, traveled to Southern California to visit 9 different campuses over 5 days. The LWHS students on this trip will be the first in their families to attend or graduate from a four-year degree granting college or university. 

Together with Gabriela, Dee, and Matthew, LWHS’s First Gen students navigated extensive public transportation routes in rainy conditions to visit Loyola Marymount University, UCLA, Occidental College, the Claremont Colleges, the University of Southern California, and more. They experienced small liberal arts schools and sprawling public universities, libraries, classrooms, student affinity gathering spaces, dining halls, athletic complexes and facilities expressly dedicated to supporting first generation college students. At USC and UCLA, they also met with LWHS alumni Shima Konishi-Gray, ‘23; Fernanda Sanchez, ‘23, and Maya Iribarren, ‘23; those visits were especially meaningful, as our current students got to pepper our alumni with questions about college life and how well LWHS prepared them for post-secondary academics (spoiler alert: alum report that thanks to their LWHS teachers, they were more than ready to take on college coursework).

Here are some reflections from two of the students:

“What I loved the most about the tour was moving through the spaces with my community. I loved hearing everyone's questions and perspectives as I went through the tours…I felt very independent and like I could imagine myself navigating life in college. I think the most eye-opening thing for me is that I could imagine myself in LA.”

“I think the most exciting parts about Pitzer and Redlands were their Latinx affinity spaces, I loved seeing the spaces in person and hearing about them, I felt at home knowing that my community was represented in those spaces, and also hearing about their executive boards showed me how I can continue with my passion with leading spaces in my community just like how I do at LWHS.”

 

And here’s what our adult chaperones, Matthew, Dee & Gabriela, shared about the experience:

“This was an amazing, joyous, instructive, and laughter-filled trip for us all! Our group visited two college campuses daily, traveling via LA’s metro and rail system, including subways, buses, and trains (and the occasional rideshare when in a time crunch!) to get a feel of moving around such a sprawling city. Our evenings were spent exploring LA’s night markets, attending an LA Kings game, eating Middle Eastern cuisine, and at Mr. Arenas’ recommended LA Ramen spot! This trip provided our students not only with an opportunity to see colleges, but also to build a community of support and care as they move through the college application process. What was clear for all of us is that, at its center, our First Generation College Tour program is one that invokes joy, community, and a deep sense of possibility.”

This trip is part of Lick-Wilmerding’s mission to develop the head, heart, and hands of motivated students and to provide opportunities for them to keep learning and growing. We are excited to start this tradition and see it grow and flourish!


 

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