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Central Valley Scholars Concludes Third Themtorship Program

Join us in this bittersweet moment of concluding our third Themtorship Program cohort. The Themtorship Program is a labor of love, created through reflection of the resources and support systems we needed during our college application process.

Continuing this program from the creation of the original founders Yadira and des, we’ve made it our mission to build a community of diverse Central Valley students who are loved, encouraged, and believed in throughout their entire college application process.

And we’ve succeeded. Not only did we increase college application and acceptance rates for our scholars, but we also co-created a loving community that encouraged our students to be confident in all that they are and prepared to tackle obstacles they encounter in their future college journey.

Our Themtorship Cohort during our Preparing For Adulthood Training.

We intentionally select a small cohort of 10 students to provide a holistic support system that creates long-term impacts on our scholars lives. Continuously centering our scholars input and feedback, we’ve invested over $40K in the program (a 200% increase from the previous year) and provided every student with the following resources:

  • $500 scholarship

  • A free laptop & wifi hotspot

  • Four college application fee waivers sponsored by Central Valley Scholars

  • A personal Themtor that provides one-on-one support on the entire college application process

  • 6 hours of free therapy with the Onyx Trauma Healing Center

  • Participation in a cohort-based support group and peer learning community over the course of 10 months

Our curriculum not only provides training on college applications, but also centers on building our scholars' confidence, radical healing, and preparing them for adulthood. Holding over 115 virtual and in-person meetings, the program covered the following:

  • Pronouns

  • Healing From Trauma

  • College Pathways

  • Scarcity vs. Scholar Mindset

  • Financial Aid & Dream Act Application

  • College & Scholarship Essay Writing

  • Common Application

  • UC Application

  • A Radical Lens on Love

  • Applying To Scholarships

  • Picking The Right College

  • Financial Literacy

  • Sexual Health

  • Mindful Substance Use

For the first time since the program founding, we also introduced in-person community gatherings covering Themtees and Themtors travel and hotel expenses. Our mission in these events is to help foster relationships with our cohort, and provide the opportunity for our Themtorship community to meet.

Our Themtorship Cohort at the in-person Themtorship Celebration on January 2023.

The event consisted of food, games, music and live performances from a vogue house and a local drag queen. The space helped to not only foster community with our Themtorship cohort and their families, but also introduced our folxs to the beauty of Queer culture. For many, this was their first drag performance and it was received with joy and admiration.

As put by one of our scholars, the Themtorship Program meets our students where they are, and “... It’s not a college boot camp, but gives space to reflect and build community all while being effective in achieving our goals… small things like the care packages and bigger things like the therapy… you make us feel seen as humans, not just kids that need to get to college.”

Scaling for our organization means digging deeper and constantly thinking of the support systems needed to truly create accessible pathways towards higher education for Black, undocumented, and first-generation students in the Central Valley. Through the use of virtual trainings, in-person community gatherings, identity-alike leadership, continuous check-ins, and constant resource sharing, the Themtorship Program actively works to dismantle issues of poverty, racism, xenophobia, homo/transphobia, and other oppressions that block Central Valley students from higher education opportunities.

We are so proud to have supported our scholars in their transitions to college, and can't wait to continue to watch them grow, live, and expand beyond this program.

Demographics, Feedback, & Program Impact ​

Our cohort of 10 scholars were a combination of high school seniors and community college students who identified as Black, undocumented, and/or first-generation college students. Additionally, our cohort carried the following identities:

  • 100% of our scholars identified as Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPoC)

  • 80% of our scholars were low to median income (We calculate student income levels based on household size and income. To learn more about our income distributions, click here).

  • 80% of our scholars were first-generation, meaning the first in their immediate family, besides their siblings, to proceed with attaining a Bachelor's degree

  • 70% of our scholars identified as women or non-men (i.e. "non-men" is a term we use to for folx who are not cisgender men, whether that be trans men, cis women, gender queer students, etc.)

As a collective, our scholars applied to 90 universities and had an acceptance rate of 73%.

We also conducted a pre and post survey to track students' growth in the FAFSA and Dream Act applications – which showcase huge growth and positive feedback after completion of the Themtorship Program (see Figure 1.0).

In Figure 1.0, students were asked to rate their confidence in applying to the FAFSA and Dream Act before and after the program. As seen above, there was a huge increase in student knowledge on these applications after participation in the program - 100% of our scholars felt confident in applying to these applications.

We also collected feedback on different aspects from the program relating to resources and student safety. The results are as follows:

  • 90% of our scholars found our program resources useful (e.g. college and scholarship writing resources)

  • 90% of our scholars feel confident navigating self care, managing rejections, and practicing community care

  • 90% of our scholars agreed that they made meaningful connections and networks in the program

  • 100% of our scholars felt safe in our program, including feeling seen, empowered, and connected

  • 100% of our scholars felt supported by their Themtor and program leads

  • 100% of our scholars stated they will continue to use different program resources throughout their college journey

  • 100% of our scholars agree that the Themtorship Program provided college, scholarship, and financial aid resources that their high school didn't

  • 100% of our scholars would recommend the program to their peers

Additionally, our scholars shared the following quotes:

The Themtorship Program not only increases access to college admissions for our scholars, but also creates a safe space for them to grow, learn, and teach one another. Many of our scholars have applied to serve as Themtors for the next cohort, and through the diversity of people and conversations created in the program, not only did they learn to care and love for themselves, but they learned to do the same for others who identities they don't share.

As put by one of our scholars in their Themtor application, "I believe it is essential to help undocumented, first-generation, BIPoC, low-income, Queer, Trans, women, parents, justice-impacted, and disabled communities."

Celebrate Our Graduating Themtees

During our final cohort gathering, we held a virtual graduation ceremony giving space for each Themtee to share a speech with the community. The recording the graduation is linked below.

From community colleges, UCs, state colleges, and private universities, every one of our Themtees will be attending college during the fall semester/quarter of 2023. Scroll through the photos to see the colleges our Themtees will be attending this fall!

Looking Forward

The Themtorship Program brings in resources, builds community, creates friendships, and uplifts confidence that will last for a life time. We've created a powerful space in which our students feel loved, cared for, and celebrated for all that they are. And through learnings from this past cohort, we are extremely excited to further impact our next Themtorship cohort this fall.

For our 2023-2024 Themtorship cohort, we received close to 80 applications from students across the Central Valley (a 100% increase from 2022) making decisions much more difficult than anticipated. But as we continue to grow, reflect, and renew, we hope to increase our cohort numbers and further support students across the Valley region. Decisions on our next Themtorship cohort will be announced this fall!

2023-2024 Themtorship Program Word Cloud

During our final group gathering, we asked all of our Themtorship Cohort to share one word to describe their experience in the Themtorship Program. The above word cloud shares their responses.

We would like to share our gratitude to the following people and companies for their contributions in making the Themorship Program possible:

  • Program leads Cristina Angelica Piña, Lizeth Calderon, and Leslie Vasquez

  • Our 2022-2023 Themtors Rebeca Santiago Lopez, Hilda Barragan-Reyes, Juana Cruz Sampedro, Mariela Vasquez, Julianna Swilley, J.d. Garza, Charles Wynter, Rachel David, Christopher Emodi, and Juan Carlos Piña

  • Our guest speakers and performers Silvia Rivera, Erica Sanchez, Rio Antonè, and Naudia Skye

  • The Fresno EOC LGBTQIA+ Center, Valeria Rodriguez, and all booths and volunteers who supported with the in-person Themtorship Celebration

  • Everyone at the Onyx Trauma Healing Center for leading listening circles and holding therapy for our students

  • All of our donors and sponsors who made this program possible

  • And last but not least, all of our Themtees who joined the program with open minds and hearts and made this an incredible 10 months for all of us. Without all of you, this program is meaningless. We appreciate all of you for reserving your Saturday mornings to spend time and learn with us <3

Please enjoy some of the moments we shared in this program.

Stay Connected

To learn more about the Themtorship Program, click here. If you would like to support our organization in continuing programs like this one, click here. For questions about this article or the Themtorship Program more generally, please contact us.



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