FGI Team (2019-20)

From left to right: Damaris Serrato, Maria Diego, Yesenia De Alba, Bianca Del Toro

Bianca Del Toro (Merrill '20)

Pronouns: She/her/hers

Bianca is a senior studying Psychology and minoring in Education. She is a student intern for the First Generation Initiative. Her main roles are to manage the newsletter, leading the First Generation Initiative Planning Committee, performing outreach and planning events. As a first-generation student, she has found ways to navigate the university in various ways in which she hopes to share with others. She has received tremendous support from the “Culture & Achievement Collaborative” in which she hopes to share what she has learned and provide a welcoming space for others. She is passionate about research and ways to support first-generation students. Fun Fact: She has been in Santa Cruz for four years and she has not been to the boardwalk.

Damaris Serrato (College Nine '20)

Pronouns: She/her/hers

Damaris is a second-year transfer, majoring in Intensive Psychology. She is a Professional Career Development Program Intern for the First Generation Initiative. Her main projects include the Speaker Series, which provides an opportunity for students to hear from subject matter experts in varying fields, as well as creating a bridge between other organizations and programs on campus such as the Student Diversity and Inclusion Program. Being a first-gen student herself, Damaris understands the challenges first-gen students face when pursuing higher education and wants to help provide fellow students with the resources and support they need to succeed. Fun fact: She can make the letter W with her tongue. 

Maria Diego (Oakes College '22)

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Maria is a second-year Human Biology major. She is the Professional Career Development Program Intern for the First Generation Initiative. As the first in her family to go to college, she received unlimited help from her high school after school program as a mentee. Now that she has college academic and social experience, she wants to help as many students as she can with having a sense of belonging at UC Santa Cruz. Maria’s main roles are to design and spread a newsletter listing resources and events that help foster a safe environment for all UC Santa Cruz first-gen students and supporters. She also assists with planning and leading events that raise visibility on first-gen struggles and successes. Fun Fact: Maria loves hiking Lembert Dome and Vernal Falls at Yosemite National Park and has gone every summer for the last 4 years! 

Yesenia De Alba - through Fall 2020 (Merrill '21)

Pronouns: She/her/hers

Yesenia is a junior, studying Latin American Latino Studies and is trying to minor in Education. She is a student intern for the First Generation Initiative team and her main roles are managing and planning events and performing outreach. As a first-generation student, she has found many struggles getting around campus but has found multiple ways to make her life on campus easier which she shares with everyone around her. She has had a lot of help from Merrill College as well as friends she has met along the way and wishes to do the same thing with other students. She has a passion for Latin American and children. Fun Fact: Yesenia has a big fear of rollercoasters but loves to ride the rollercoasters at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk.

Program Founders

Gwynn Benner, MPA

Pronouns: She/her/hers

Gwynn is co-founder and the staff lead for the First Generation Initiative, supporting our brilliant interns who work tirelessly to engage our campus on this effort. She oversees fundraising and administration of the program. Gwynn loves this program. We are working to support a population of students on our campus who have not had the same advantages as our continuing generation students. They are amazing, resilient, hardworking, and fun to work with. Fun fact: She loves to garden and has been creating a monarch butterfly sanctuary in her backyard that is thriving.

Dr. Rebecca Covarrubias, Associate Professor of Psychology

Pronouns: She/her/hers

Rebecca is co-founder and the faculty lead for the UC Santa Cruz First Generation Initiative. In this role, she provides support and consultation on First Gen Initiative events, messaging, and programming; conducts research to contribute to program evaluation and to strengthen out understanding of the first-gen experience; and provide opportunities for students to connect and to engage in first-gen work on campus. As a first-generation faculty, she is committed to ensuring that students from diverse and marginalized backgrounds thrive at UC Santa Cruz. She loves the power of creating positive representations for our campus community and of fostering connections that promote a strong sense of belonging and empowerment on campus. The opportunity to engage in this work with students, faculty and staff has been incredibly rewarding! Fun fact: She LOVES watching movies!

First Generation Initiative Planning Committee

This work is also guided by an amazing Steering Committee of dedicated students who have been meeting the past two years to identify strategies, advance programming, and organize outreach and events.