AARP Eye Center
When I was 57, I started the Peninsula College Fund (PCF) to empower low-income, first-generation college students to graduate and obtain jobs that align with their career goals. Our vision is to transform lives and break the cycle of poverty. Since 2005, PCF has served 533 students, 217 of whom have earned undergraduate degrees.
The problem I’m trying to solve
For the United States to remain a global economic leader, young people from all backgrounds must be educated to become the skilled workers and leaders of tomorrow. We cannot afford to leave any of them behind, and yet only 21 percent of first-generation, low-income college students in the U.S. graduate within six years of enrollment, compared to 77 percent of higher-income, multigeneration college students. Often these students are from neighborhoods with underperforming schools and have little expectation of attending college or aspiring to professional careers.
PCF serves low-income, first-generation college students from California’s San Mateo and Santa Clara counties. We target students with 2.8 to 3.8 GPAs who also demonstrate leadership through school and community activities. Students receive scholarships and are also matched with a mentor, who provides training, resources and the support needed to navigate the college experience successfully. We have awarded 533 scholarships amounting to $4.8 million, and the 400-plus mentors have volunteered thousands of hours.
The moment that sparked my passion
I was raised in a comfortable, loving family and fortunate to receive an outstanding education at a Jesuit university. A post-college trip to Asia exposed me to real poverty and influenced my decision to pursue teaching. Working with young people has been my passion ever since. After raising my children, I had the opportunity to go back into teaching for a second time. I soon began to recognize the enormous fault lines in our society, all related to diversity, equity and inclusion. I founded PCF because I realized the power of education in addressing social problems.