First Generation Program

Are you a first generation student?
It means your parent or guardian has not earned a four-year college degree.

The First Generation Program at Sierra Nevada University successfully supports and nurtures exceptional students who are the first generation in their families to attend college. First generation students often thrive within a college with a dedicated commitment to working one-on-one with each family. We reach out to each student from the beginning of the admissions process, through advising each semester for classes, and with career planning in preparation for graduation. Through personalized advising and club activities, new First Generation students are welcomed into a community who leads them into a successful college career beginning with their first semester.

What we offer First Generation Students:

  • An average class size of 15 students
  • Personalized advising—one common advisor for incoming First Generation students
  • Student activities and campus involvement
  • Free student tutoring and writing lab support for assignments in every class
  • A club dedicated to First Generation students and advocates
  • Mentoring offered by other First Generation students
  • Leadership development through club activities and community outreach

The First Generation Club:

Mission: to support First Generation students academically and socially, and to contribute to the community through service.

Activities and Accomplishments:

  • Elected leadership positions within the club
  • Weekly meetings on campus
  • Fellowship dinners at student and faculty homes
  • Gym visits to the Incline Recreation Center where students have a free membership
  • Community service and work study with local non-profits
  • An annual Tamale Drive fundraiser for the Sierra Nevada University community
  • On-campus awareness and holiday fundraiser for families in need through a partnership with the Kings Beach Family Resource Center. Students gain camaraderie and a sense of purpose through purchasing gifts, wrapping, and delivering them to a local family.


Katie Zanto

Bio: B.A., English, Dartmouth College; M.A., English Education and Curriculum Development, Stanford; C.L.A.D. credential in English, Mills College. Zanto teaches English composition, communications, interdisciplinary studies and a variety of other courses in the program.  She also teaches mountaineering and telemark skiing at the college.  Under the auspices of University of California, Berkeley, she designed and founded a literacy and leadership program, Adventure, Risk and Challenge (ARC) for high school youth.  A former outward bound instructor, she has also taught English at Berkeley High School and English Language Development (ELD) at Sierra Mountain Middle School in Truckee. At Sierra Nevada University, she is currently the Chair of the Interdisciplinary Studies Program and the advisor of the First Generation Club.

Statement: I enjoy being the advisor for the First Generation club and for many of our students because I care deeply about student retention. Our goal is to help all students at SNU feel supported and connected.

Student Bios:

Tania Cabrera (‘12)
Hometown: Truckee, CA
Major: International Studies

I’m a junior here at Sierra Nevada University and my major is International Studies with a minor in Global Management. I love listening to music and watching movies, and as the first of three siblings in my family to aspire a higher education, I am proud to have been the president of the First Generation Club in 2010/2011. I think this club is important not only because it helps to bring people together, but also because it serves as a support group for everyone in it.

Israel Carrillo (’12)
Hometown: Petaluma, CA
Major: Psychology

The First Generation Club has been very influential to me. It has helped me make the transition to college from high school. Since I am the first in my family to go to college, I didn’t really have any support from home and the First Generation Club has been my second family and has given me support as I go through my college career. I am a Psychology major and my hobbies are sports, cooking and being active. I served as the first president of the First Generation Club during its inaugural year. I am also an SNU President’s Ambassador, serving in a leadership role on campus and as an ambassador to the community on behalf of the college.

Yami Gutierrez (‘14)
Hometown: Kings Beach, CA
Major: Biology

I’m a freshman student majoring in Biology. I have the benefit of attending this liberal arts college that allows me to take numerous classes such as computer animation, while also focusing on my major. During the last year I became a mother, and the First Generation Club (FCG) and Sierra Nevada University has helped me be passionate and keep up with my education. I have been given many new opportunities that I never would have thought possible. In my free time, I enjoy spending time my daughter, Miah, as well as snowboarding or playing basketball. I have always been a leader and bringing this to the FCG will help me in improving my leadership skills. I am very proud to be the treasurer in 2010/2011 and president of the First Generation Club in 2011/2012. We plan to give back to the community.

Sonya Hernandez (’12)
Hometown: Napa, CA
Major: Interdisciplinary Studies in Sustainability

I am the first generation of my family to attend a 4-year college. I’m a junior here at SNU and I am majoring in Sustainability with a minor in Outdoor Adventure Leadership. In 2011/2012, I am the current president of Sustainability club and the vice president and secretary of the First Generation club. I was a wilderness leader for Wilderness Orientation last fall and received my Wilderness First Responder this past winter. I love Sierra Nevada University and I hope to receive my Masters in Education here in the future.

Ariel Trejo (’14)
Hometown: Stockton, CA
Major: Psychology

My name is Ariel Trejo. I am a 19 year old freshman at SNU and I am a Psychology major with a minor in Art. I decided to be a Psychology major to get my PhD because I want to be a child psychologist. I have always had the need to change people’s lives and I can’t think of a better way to do it then to start with the generation that will be our future. I decided to minor in Art because it has always been a passion of mine. I believe that there is a stress relieving quality you can only get from doing any type of art. I am the first person in my family to graduate from high school and go to college. I decided to join the First Generation Club because they provided support by creating a family outside of my family back home. That alone made the transition from living at home to living in a college dorm room a lot easier to handle. My hobbies include painting, writing poetry, and any outdoor activity that fits into my schedule.

Yesenia Ruelas (’14)
Hometown: Kings Beach, CA
Major: Humanities

I am part of the first generation as well as the first female to be going to college in my family. My hobbies are reading, drawing and sewing. But unlike these side hobbies, music is a big part of my life. I started playing piano at 8 years old, flute at 11, and I’ve been singing ever since I could remember. I have a difficult time expressing myself through words. With music, I feel free, liberated enough to let my voice be heard.  I joined the First Generation club because I wanted to be a part of something when I came to this college. This club is important to me because I have found a great group of friends to hang out and study with. They are not just my friends, they are my family.