WashU’s new Kessler Scholars Program provides a beacon of hope for first-generation students
Mark Figueroa, Assistant Director of the Kessler Scholars Program, stated how the program’s goal is to “support First-Generation Limited-Income students (FGLI) who are enthusiastic about using their STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education to tackle societal challenges.”
This program not only ensures that Kessler Scholars receive financial assistance covering 100% of their needs, but it also offers summer bridge programs and grants to support their research and internship endeavors. This year, a diverse group of 20 Kessler Scholars has come together from across the country to collaborate and achieve their aspirations.
Among these scholars is Yeshua Ayala, a first-year student whose career aspirations have shifted “from astronomer, aerospace engineer, [or] mathematician to bioengineer…but [have] never left the STEM field.” Ayala is committed to incorporating his curiosity “for why things work the way they do” to design “creative, new, and more efficient products for the greater good.”
Maria Lopez, another Kessler Scholar, is a first-year student from Arizona pursuing Computer Engineering. Lopez explained, “Growing up, I didn’t have much technology at home. But at school, we would have computer labs, and I would always want to break into [the computer] and look at it, but I couldn’t do that.”
Lopez’s fascination with computers drove her to begin researching cybersecurity and internet safety for children. “Kids these days face a lot of online bullying and harassment, and it irks me. I want to change this,” said Lopez.
Like her fellow scholars, first-year Constance Rosemond realized that her passion for STEM goes “beyond sitting behind a desk or working in industry.” At home, Rosemond is an active volunteer for “tenant-rights advocacy organizations, where I helped tenants apply for rent subsidies, public housing, and food stamps.”
Now at WashU, Rosemond plans to pursue a Mechanical Engineering degree with an African and African-American Studies minor. She believes that her studies will aid her plans to join WashU’s Engineers without Borders club, where she can go to “historically disinvested communities and work on their infrastructure. That’s what I want to do — it’s my dream.”
In addition to their STEM aspirations, dreams, and objectives, the Kessler Scholars place a significant emphasis on the tight-knit community they’ve forged among their group of 20 members.
Highlighting the camaraderie within the group, Lopez said, “We spent a lot of time together. Last week, we had an ice-cream social, and it was so fun just hanging out and playing board games. I feel prepared and comfortable now, with a solid group of friends [that] I know will have my back.”
Constance Rosemond shares her appreciation for her fellow scholars: “I love every single one of them, and each person has such [a] colorful [personality]. It’s amazing to be around such passionate people that share similar interests [as] me.”
The Kessler Scholars Program at Washington University in St. Louis stands as a shining example of the transformative power of education, diversity, and community. With a steadfast commitment to nurturing the talents and passions of its scholars, this program not only opens doors to academic excellence, but also inspires a profound sense of purpose and responsibility.