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Welcome to the 1st Generation Mentorship Program

As a first generation student, it is difficult to navigate higher education. I wanted to have a mentor that was first generation or was interested in helping first generation students like myself navigate the system.

The 1st Generation Mentorship Program is a community of Stanford Medicine students, faculty, alumni, staff, who are either the first in their family to attend college/graduate/professional school and/or are the first in their families born in the United States. Our goal is to provide first-generation students with broadened academic and professional networking opportunities and advocacy through continued mentorship.

1st Spotlight

For our first 1st Gen spotlight...

...we are shining a light on this shining star. Dorothy Tovar is a Ph.D. student studying Microbiology and Immunology and a thriving member of our 1st Gen family. She was the recipient of Stanford's 21st Century Leader Award. She founded the Stanford Black Bioscience Organization (SBBO), a student group that connects, empowers, and advocates for graduate students of color; and worked to establish the first diversity center at the Stanford School of Medicine. Dorothy was part of an exhibit this past summer in Centra Park in New York City featuring contemporary women in STEM careers. (See this article for more info and photos!)

Is there a member of our 1st gen family that deserves to be in the spotlight? Send us a note and we will feature them here in our next newsletter!

Zoom Backgrounds

If you would like to download some cool 1st Gen Zoom backgrounds created by Gabriela Valazquez, click here!

In the Community

2021 Mentor/Mentee Virtual Match Event

Wednesday, March 3, 2021 | 5:30-7:00pm

The 1st Generation Mentorship Program is celebrating the new academic year, welcoming new members, and introducing mentors to mentees at our annual Mentor/Mentee Match Event virtually on on January 20. 

Learn more here

Cycle 5 Ends for 1st Gen

On 10/28/2020 we had hosted our first-ever virtual closing celebration of our mentorship program! We had a mini-cycle this year and we celebrated our fabulous five mentors and mentees and thanked them for coming together in one of the most difficult times to support one another. Congratulations to Austin Johnson, Dr. Caroline Fischer, Brenda Yu, Dr. Cleber Ouverney & Dr. Denise Rettenmaier!

Journal of First-generation Student Success

NASPA's Center for First-generation Student Success is exicted to announce the call for submission to its new Journal of First-generation Student Success (JFGSS). Learn more here

The Journal of First-generation Student Success is seeking manuscripts for its inaugural issue addressing first-generation college student success. December 15, 2020 is the submission deadline for manuscripts to be considered for the inaugural issue. The anticipated publication date is April 2021.

National Celebrate 1st Gen Day

In 2017, the Council for Opportunity in Education (COE) and the Center for First-generation Student Success launched the inaugural First-Generation College Celebration on November 8th for colleges and universities to recognize their first-gen students. 

The week of November 8, members of the Stanford Community celebrated through a social media campaign celebrating National CELEBRATE FIRST-GEN Day. Members of the community shared stories from a first-generation and/or low-income student perspective, with alumni, faculty, staff, and allies also shared throughout the week on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

#FLIatStanford (First-Gen and/or Low Income (FLI)) participated in @FirstgenCenter and @councilforopportunityineducation on Facebook for their #CelebrateFirstGen! 

In the News: Leaders in Black History

Who was Ella Baker?

The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights is named after a brilliant, Black hero of the civil rights Freedom Movement who inspired and guided emerging leaders. We build on her legacy by building the power of black, brown, and poor people to create solutions for one of the biggest drivers of injustice today: mass incarceration.

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Shirley Anita Chisholm | Unbought and Unbossed

Shirley Anita Chisholm was an American politician, educator, and author. The first African-American Congresswoman, she represented a newly reapportioned U.S. House district centered in Brooklyn, New York. Elected in 1968 with deep roots in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, Chisholm was catapulted into the national limelight by virtue of her race, gender, and outspoken personality.

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Claudette Colvin, Retired American Nurse Aide

I knew then and I know now that, when it comes to justice, there is no easy way to get it. You can’t sugarcoat it. You have to take a stand and say, ‘This is not right.’ And I did.

Nine months before Rosa Parks helped spark the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott, Claudette Colvin was arrested  for refusing to give up her seat on a crowded, segregated bus. 

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John Mercer Langston 

One of the most prominent African Americans in the United States before and during the Civil War, John Mercer Langston was as famous as his political nemesis, Frederick Douglass. One of the first African Americans to hold elective office in the United States (he became Brownhelm, Ohio, township clerk in 1855), Langston topped off his long political career by becoming the first black man to represent Virginia in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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Thurgood Marshall | Supreme Court Justice and Founder, Legal Defense and Education Fund 

Thurgood Marshall was an influential leader of the civil rights movement, a profound contributor to the NAACP, founder of LDF in 1940, serving as its first Director-Counsel, was the architect of the legal strategy that ended the country’s official policy of segregation, and was the first African American to serve on the Supreme Court, on which he served as Associate Justice from 1967-1991.

For more information, please visit the Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Hiram Rhodes Revels

In an era when educating black children was illegal in North Carolina, Hiram Rhodes Revels attended a school taught by a free black woman. Revels was the first African American to serve in the U.S. Congress.  

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NAACP History: Carter G. Woodson

“Those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history.

These are the words of Dr. Carter Godwin Woodson, distinguished Black author, editor, publisher, and historian (December 1875 – April 1950). Carter G. Woodson believed that Blacks should know their past in order to participate intelligently in the affairs in our country. He strongly believed that Black history – which others have tried so diligently to erase – is a firm foundation for young Black Americans to build on in order to become productive citizens of our society.

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Become a Mentor

Our new membership form is under development! If you would like to join our community, please email

Many successful professionals have had, early on, one or more mentors who made a big difference in helping them achieve early success. Our graduate students, and especially those who are first generation, will benefit greatly from expert guidance throughout their academic journey.

Being a mentor has its benefits. First, sharing your passions, you can help to set the tone for students entering their professional careers. Mentors learn things about themselves as well; their career benefits, and, when thinking about the impact on someone else’s life, mentors feel like they are doing something that matters deeply and personally.

Pay it forward. Bridge the generation gap. Become a mentor.

(Please note that, while we greatly value our mentor community, not all mentors will be matched directly with a student. We need a diverse pool of mentors so that they best suit the needs of our mentees.)

BrightCrowd 1st Gen Community Book

Are you a current 1st Gen Member? 

The 1st Generation Mentorship Program offers its members an opportunity to participate in our 1st Gen Community Book. This provides our Mentors and Mentees a place to look for other community members. All current members were invited to complete a profile and create a page. 

Members should have received an email from BrightCrowd (Subject: 1st Generation Mentorship Program: Community Book Invitation). Click My Page to complete your profile! Only those with photos uploaded will show on the 1st Gen main page! (They'll still be listed in the directory, though.) 

Meet a Mentor

Reena Thomas, MD, PhD

Interested in mentoring an MD student.

Dr. Reena Thomas, nominated for and recipient of the 1st Generation Mentorship Program 2018 Mentor of the Year award, received her medical degree from Georgetown University School of Medicine in Washington, DC and her PhD from the City of Hope Graduate School in Duarte, California. She completed her training as a resident in Neurology as well as her fellowship training in Neuro-Oncology at Stanford University Hospital. (Read more....)