Bulldog Bites

News and Views from the University of Redlands

First-generation student pays it forward

Alejandrina Morales ’21, a math major and Rochford College Access Program mentor, enjoys helping younger students who share her background. (Photo by Michelle Dang '14)

When Alejandrina Morales ’21 was a senior in high school, she realized she had a knack for helping others. Becoming a peer tutor in the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program and joining Link Crew—a high school transition program in which seniors mentored freshmen—were some of the activities that laid the foundation for her involvement in the University of Redlands Rochford College Access Program.

The Rochford College Access Program, funded by Tim and Carol Rochford, is a collaboration between the U of R and the Redlands Unified School District to help make college more accessible for low-income students who need additional resources to succeed. After hearing one of her U of R professors talk about the program, Morales knew she wanted to get involved. She now routinely spends two afternoons every week tutoring and playing educational games with students in the program.

“The most rewarding part of being a mentor is seeing the students’ excitement to learn and be challenged,” she says. “They see me as a friend and a teacher, and I really enjoy that connection.”

Students in the Rochford College Access Program will be the first in their families to attend college, and the same is true for Morales. As a first-generation student, she has appreciated the help she has received and wants to pay it forward.

When Morales was first researching colleges, she looked for a small university with a community that would encourage her growth—something she found when she visited the U of R. As an incoming student, she attended Summer Bridge, a program that provides first-generation students with important information and support before they begin classes. As a sophomore, Morales returned to the program as a mentor.

“Attending Summer Bridge was really important to me because I didn’t know anyone going into college,” she says. “Everyone was a first-generation student [in Summer Bridge], so I didn’t feel alone in my experience.”

A lifelong math aficionado, Morales quickly declared a major in mathematics. Because Spanish is her first language, as a child Morales initially had trouble grasping subjects taught in English, which led to her love of numbers. Math is a universal language, she says.

In the future, Morales plans to enroll in the learning and teaching program in the U of R’s School of Education. In addition to receiving her teaching credential, Morales is looking forward to continuing as part of the Redlands community.

“Everyone here is so giving,” she says. “It feels like we’re all a part of a larger family, and I want to help anyone I can.”

Learn more about getting involved in the Rochford College Access Program.