Scholars & Alumni

First in their family to attend college. First to lead in so many ways.

Meet current students and alumni who are blazing new trails with support from the Kessler Scholars

The vision of the Kessler Scholars Collaborative is to develop and connect a diverse network of first-generation scholars who will lead and shape the world for generations to come. From pursuing internships to working in campus research labs and serving as critical mentors to younger students, the students and alumni who are at the center of the Kessler Scholars Program show how meaningful support across the college journey can transform lives.

Erykah Pasha

Syracuse University, Class of 2024

As a Political Science major, Erykah Pasha had the opportunity to participate in Syracuse University’s Semester in D.C. Program, gaining first-hand experience in politics and policy as an intern with the U.S. Department of Education. The immersive program was both “challenging and fun,” Pasha said, adding that: “I hope to find my back back to D.C. some way, whether through school or work in the future.” This kind of experience is a core outcome goal of the Kessler Scholars Program, which seeks to support student engagement in internships, research, or study abroad programs—all high-impact practices that research shows boosts student success both in college and after graduation.

The Kessler Scholars Program has helped me so much, not only through acclimating to life on campus but also through having a home here on campus. My favorite Kessler experience includes playing the online game ‘Among Us’ during one of our weekly meetings and being connected to so many helpful resources both on campus and beyond.

Erykah Pasha

Andy Ye

University of Michigan, Class of 2022

Andy Ye, who graduated in 2022 with a degree in Biopsychology, Cognition, and Neuroscience, embodied the Kessler Scholars Program’s core ethos of giving back to others across his undergraduate journey. Andy served as a peer mentor to first-year Kessler Scholars during his sophomore, junior, and senior years. He also was a willing guide for other students, sharing his experiences from a study abroad program in Japan to encourage other Kessler Scholars to pursue similar opportunities or joining activities like an ice-skating social to promote fun and exploration. After graduation from U-M, Andy is pursuing a professional degree in podiatry.

The Kessler Scholars Program provided an inviting community in that I felt comfortable being vulnerable with other students from similar backgrounds. I felt connected to the staff members personally and was able to share with them my growth throughout my undergraduate career. Through the program, I learned how to take care of myself and to take moments of pause during mentally challenging times in the college journey.

Andy Ye

Lillian Bambacht

University of Michigan, Class of 2023

Lillian Bambacht grew up in the small, rural community of Hillsdale, Michigan, and the adjustment to college life as a first-generation student at the University of Michigan was a big leap. Through the Kessler Scholars Program, Lillian emerged as a strong, inquisitive student leader. She can regularly be found at the program’s weekly drop-in office hours, welcoming or helping other Kessler Scholars. She credits engagement with the program as helping her to recognize and seek out opportunities for growth, such as serving as president of the Michigan Yoga Club, regular work at an area home for senior citizens, and serving as an undergraduate research assistant. Lillian, shown second from right here, also credits the Kessler Scholars Program with supporting some of her closest connections and deepest friendships at U-M.

I never imagined I would find such comfort and joy from a scholarship program, but the Kessler Scholars Program claimed a special place in my heart very quickly during my first year at Michigan, and my love for the program has only grown. My fellow Kessler Scholars are my closest friends, and I don’t believe I would have found such a relatable group for myself any other way. I have learned how to make a large university smaller, and the mentorship I have received through Kessler has taught me more than how to manage my academics – it has also allowed me to grow in my personal and communal life. Being a part of this program makes me strive to be the kind of person who reflects the great authenticity and humbleness that this organization exudes.
Lillian Bambacht

One of the biggest impacts of the Kessler Scholars Program on my experiences here at Johns Hopkins has been the summer grant funding. Many of my peers can pursue projects and internships without worries of financially supporting themselves. The Kessler Scholars Program not only helps me design and plan for a summer learning experience, but the summer stipend helps to put first-generation, limited-income students on a more level playing field. In addition to this, the support and community of the Kessler Scholars adds to the overall feeling of being welcomed and encouraged by the Center of Student Success. I’m so grateful to be a part of the program.

Lubna Azmi, Kessler Scholar
Johns Hopkins University, Class of 2023

The Kessler Scholars Program has formed a community of first-generation students of diverse backgrounds that are able to rely on each other for comfort and advice; the virtual workshops that shed light on dealing with imposter syndrome, financial literacy, and professional development have educated us and provided us with multiple resources that we would be otherwise unaware of as first-generation students if we were not in this program. Interactions with the staff and other Kessler Scholars have deepened our sense of belonging in the community of Cornell and in the community of first-generation students at Cornell.

Brandon Huynh, Kessler Scholar
Cornell University, Class of 2024


As a Kessler Scholar at Syracuse, I’ve made relationships that will be beneficial for me for my future. I have made friends who I will call the best people in my life. I truly gained that support group that my offer letter about the Kessler Scholars Program spoke about. The Kessler Scholars Program has benefited me so much with supportive words, tactics on how to tackle the new environment that is college, and simply being a better person.

Sebastian Lopez, Kessler Scholar
Syracuse University, Class of 2025