Gifts Help First-Generation Students Succeed

First-generation college students face challenges that make it especially difficult for them to stay in school. Hector Martinez ’15 knows well the obstacles that can stand between a student and his degree.

Martinez grew up in South San Francisco, the son of Salvadoran immigrants who did not attend high school. Through their support and sacrifices, and despite job losses during the recession, Martinez became the first in his family to attend college. But when he arrived at USF, “there were new struggles,” he says. “It was always a point of survival — I’ve got to get good grades to make it to next year. You could say you’d made it, but I always felt like, 'I haven’t made it yet.'”

Martinez joined the Muscat Scholars Program (MSP), named in memory of beloved School of Management Professor and Associate Dean Eugene Muscat. Thanks to scores of donors, the 20-year-old program has helped generations of students succeed. 

MSP’s core is a two-week boot camp for incoming first-generation college freshmen, designed to build community, boost academic readiness, and introduce new students to the ins and outs of college. These bonds and lessons are reinforced during each student’s USF career, through retreats, events, and mentorship programs.

Students in MSP stay at USF at higher rates than peers who are invited and decline to apply for the program. And these students don’t just stay in school — they rise to leadership positions and mentor younger students. When they leave USF, they continue to excel. Since graduating, Sanchez joined KPMG as an accounting associate and hopes to start a company with a socially conscious mission. Other MSP alumni include doctors, a television executive, and founders of companies and nonprofits.

Donors to USF make programs like MSP possible. To invest in life-changing education for students like Hector Martinez, visit