Meet the mentors

VCU You First mentors are sophomore, junior, and senior first-generation college students who serve as guides to new VCU students who are also first-gen. Having learned to navigate college life, these students are excited to share their hard-earned “college knowledge” with others to help ease the transition into this new world. They know what it feels like to be brand new and they welcome questions and conversation of all sorts.

If you would like to be connected with a You First mentor, or if you are interested in becoming a mentor, email

Papa Beye

Computer Engineering, class of 2021

What do you enjoy about being a mentor?
I really enjoy talking to my mentees and helping them arrive to solutions. I love seeing their success.

What do you value about being a first-gen student?
I value my identity as a first-generation student because it empowers me to pursue the unlikely.

Ieidi Cooper

History and English, class of 2021

On being a mentor: I remember how it felt to be an incoming student; I had no idea what to expect and how I was going to be able to survive. Given the opportunity, I wanted to be able to give back to students who are expressing the same fears I felt.

On the Summer Scholars program: Do it! Take every opportunity you can take on during your first year in school. Students are usually too scared to go out and join organizations, but being a part of programs almost forces you to get out of your comfort zone and understand how to transition into becoming a college student.

Amaya Doswell

Liberal Studies for Elementary Education, class of 2021

On being a mentor: Its my goal to make other students feel like this campus is their home and that they belong here just as much as any other student does. I like being able to help students avoid some of the issues that I had to tackle during my time getting acclimated to college life. I love helping students find their place on campus and push themselves to get involved and make the most out of their time here.

On the Summer Scholars program: This was the most beneficial experiences I have had in college so far. Being first generation I never knew about college life and how to navigate classes, involvement, and social life. I learned so many skills and improved upon qualities that have had a major impact on my time at VCU. I enjoyed the experience and made lasting connections with other summer scholars.

Adriane Manigo

African American Studies, class of 2021

On being a mentor: The number one thing I love about being a mentor is being a resource to other students. Also I love the connections that I am able to make with other students.

On the Summer Scholars program: I would tell someone who is considering to be Summer Scholar that there really should be no question to it. Summer Scholars is too amazing of an opportunity to pass up and you’d honestly be doing themselves a disservice if they didn’t take advantage of the program.

Keishawna Rowe

English, Class of 2020

What do you enjoy about being a mentor?
What I enjoy about being a mentor is the fact that I am handing my knowledge to my mentees while also learning from them. Quite honestly, I most enjoy feeling joy when I see those who I’ve mentored develop and prosper not just academically, but personally as well. 

What do you value about being a first-gen student?
What I value most about being first-gen is the community we have. It’s tight and close knit and makes me feel like I’m a part of a family. 


Yessica Flores

Psychology and sociology, class of 2021

On being a mentor: I love the rewarding feeling of being able to guide others through challenging situations. I love the experience of being a resource for others.

On the Summer Scholars program: If you have the opportunity to become a Summer Scholar, take advantage of it. Do it and make the best of it. This program will benefit you in ways you would never expect it to. If you take advantage of all the information, resources, and networking opportunities provided, then you should have a head start on figuring out how college works. This program will will give you an unforgettable and very valuable experience.

Jon Mirador

Interdisciplinary Studies, class of 2022

What do you enjoy about being a mentor?
I most enjoy helping to guide the process of self-improvement by creating a meaningful relationship, which can impact both the mentor and the mentee. It is greatly rewarding to be that person who I once needed. 

What do you value about being a first-gen student?
I value the sense of fulfillment that comes with every achievement. This is because as a first-gen student, it can be difficult to see the progress we make as we keep working towards our goals. It’s important to step back and see how just how hard we’re working, and that makes everything worthwhile.


Nana Afriyie

Social Work, class of 2020

What do you enjoy about being a mentor?
One thing I enjoy about being a mentor is getting to meet new people with different backgrounds.

What do you value about being a first-gen student?
I value being the first in my family to attend college. 

Barjaa Brown

Psychology, class of 2021

What do you enjoy about being a mentor?
I enjoy helping fellow first-gen students succeed by being a resource to them. Also, I enjoy being part of their support system and sharing knowledge about things that might not necessarily be apparent. 

What do you value about being a first-gen student?
I value the opportunity to provide advice and guidance that I myself had and would have benefitted from.

Savannah Cook

Nursing and Psychology, class of 2022

What do you enjoy about being a mentor?
I think back to when I was just coming into VCU, and all the mentors I had myself. I never could have made the transition to college comfortably without all the help I had along the way. As a mentor I enjoy helping other first generation students get accustomed to university life in any way I can.

What do you value about being a first-gen student?
I value that I am the first of my family to pursue a higher education, and I hope that I can light the way for my younger siblings. I have found a population of students that feel the same way as I do, and I am so happy that we all can learn from each other.


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