UC Merced has a track record of helping first-generation and underrepresented students succeed in college, earning high rankings nationally for social mobility and outperforming expected graduation rates.
As UC Merced students continue to rise above their circumstances, a Bay Area organization is producing a pipeline that helps these students begin the road to success before they set foot on the campus.
Students Rising Above (SRA) serves students from nine counties that make up the San Francisco Bay Area. The founding initiative, Rising Stars, provides services to first-generation students from low-income communities who exhibit a commitment to education and the character to overcome difficult circumstances.
SRA connects students to the tools, resources and community they need to succeed on their college-to-career journeys. SRA has deep and direct relationships with each student, providing mentorship, financial guidance and healthcare.
Nearly a quarter of UC Merced students are from the Bay Area, 21 of them are current Rising Stars participants. Several of the current Rising Stars have been highlighted in San Francisco-based KPIX 5 CBS award-winning Students Rising Above segment:
“Many of our students are looking for the opportunities that a UC education provides,” SRA Manager of Student Programs Veli Waller said. “UC Merced provides a great opportunity to be at a UC while also having the experience of being in a smaller-sized environment and generous financial aid to allow them to focus on their education.
“When we have students that are thriving at a school, the school becomes more attractive to other students.”
The Rising Stars program begins with the completion of the junior year of high school. Students are paired with a Students Rising Above advisor who helps plan out support for their final year of high school and for college. A career development team provides curriculum, workshops and internship prep and placement to help students plan for their career.
Additionally, SRA recently launched an online program, SOAR, to provide peer mentors for students currently in college. The SOAR program engages current four-year and community college students to increase persistence rates, graduation rates and the attainment of career-ladder jobs.
“Over the last two years, SRA has helped me in many ways,” sophomore Curtavia Gill said. “I personally feel the emotional support they provide has helped me evolve as a student, person and overall leader. I am proud to be an SRA student and Rising Star.”