The FirstFruits Scholars Program supports students who demonstrate a strong commitment to service in community. Our goal is to see youth embrace their God-given gifts and dreams and build the skills and connections needed to put those dreams into action.
Most of our students are the first in their families to pursue higher education. For them to be successful, we know it takes more than money. Our scholars program is about accompaniment — connecting with youth and their families, bridging relationships with schools, and building cohorts of students who can be a support to one another.
The FirstFruits Scholars Program is open to children of FirstFruits Farms and FirstFruits Community employees. We seek to connect with students early in their high school program so that we can build relationships with them and offer guidance as they chart their course for the future.
Our orientation program takes prospective students through a series of workshops covering the following topics: call and purpose; servant leadership; community service; planning and organizing; good decision making.
Throughout the scholarship program, we place a high priority on community building — not only are students required to complete community service hours prior to applying for admission into our program, but they commit to community service hours every month during their course of study.
The purpose of this community service requirement is less about the activity chosen than it is about the intentional effort made by each student to connect with people outside of their regular school routine. Over the years, we have learned that the most successful students have built up networks of support, both on and off campus. As they engage in the community around them, they build supportive relationships and takes these skills and connections with them wherever they go in the future.
First Fruits Scholar Cesar Castañeda, who recently graduated from WSU with his bachelor’s degree in Comparative Ethnic Studies and Human Development, gave an encouraging speech to the scholars starting and returning to college this fall. “One thing that you’ll figure out in college, if you haven’t yet, is that it is a difficult journey to complete on your own, and there is no shame in that. If anything, I guarantee that your time at college becomes more fun when you begin to reach out and receive help from the people and organizations around you,” Cesar counseled.
He spoke of finding a sense of belonging through his fraternity and the Latinx Student Center; of seeking out mentorship from faculty and staff; and of being pushed by a mentor to seek help for depression and anxiety. “These kinds of mental health issues can arise from many different sources, from no longer being the straight-A student you were in high school to simply feeling alone because you no longer live with your family. Fortunately, WSU, as well as many universities now, has free counseling services available to its students. If at any point you feel like you can benefit from these resources, seek them out regardless of the stigma that may surround them in our community.” Today, Cesar works in WSU’s Student Financial Services Office helping all students and guiding them to the many resources on campus.