Cindy Escobar’s Babson College experience has been all about firsts.
Escobar ’23 is a first-generation college student. She was “matched” with Babson College using a program that pairs high school students with a college or university based on their interests. When she was accepted, the California resident realized she would be living far from her family for the first time.
“I knew I wanted to go, but it was very scary moving away,” Escobar said. Her parents, who emigrated from Guatemala, had started their own business, and so had her brother. “Entrepreneurship runs in my blood, so Babson was something that I knew would be a great opportunity for me.”
After only one semester, Escobar faced another first—the COVID-19 pandemic. She went back to California, unsure how she’d maintain connections with her new friends and mentors during remote classes.
“As a first-year student, you’re just trying to find people that you can connect with, and it was at the height of the pandemic when I realized that first-generation college students like myself really need that support the most,” Escobar said. “That’s when Babson’s Semillas Society was born.”
The direct translation of semillas in Spanish is seeds. First-generation college students are often the sons and daughters of immigrant parents, those of whom have left everything they’ve ever known behind to plant a seed, the first-generation college student, in the land of opportunity, in hopes of a better future, Escobar said. The mission at Semillas Society is to water and nurture the seeds to establish strong roots for our community to continue growing.
“We started this organization with the mission of simply finding our community, and it’s been amazing to see how the group has grown,” Escobar said. “Everybody feels like they belong, and I’m really happy that I’m able to be a part of creating that type of community.”
‘Finding Our Community’
Creating a new organization at Babson also was a first, and Escobar collected a lot of information as she worked to organize the group.
“We had big plans, but we had to start small,” Escobar said. She began by looking for students who self-identify as first-generation students.
“There’s over 400 students at Babson who identify as first generation, and initially I was struggling to find one or two,” Escobar said.
Eventually a group of roughly 60 students got together for a casual first meeting to discuss their needs, which sometimes included learning how to network, finding a mentor program or recruiting event, or finding financial planning resources.
“We wanted to recognize the importance of supporting first-generation students in a big way. We had already established that first-generation students were present, we wanted to go even further and help connect them with top employers,” Escobar said.
The Semillas Society’s initial first-generation conference was the result. Escobar, serving as president of Semillas Society, was joined by seven other first-generation students on the executive board. They offered career workshops, first-generation networking, and expert training from Babson professors and alumni at Olin Hall.
“We had about 70 people sign up last year, and we’re already expecting 150 attendees this year,” she said.
The Work Continues
After Escobar graduates this spring, she hopes to build on her experience leading the Semillas Society and continue to connect first-generation college graduates with recruiters across the country.
“I’m going to be focusing on hosting high-caliber networking and social events where brands and recruiting companies can get in touch with high-achieving first-gen students,” Escobar said. “I’m really grateful that I was able to establish these foundational roots at Babson, and I’m thankful for everybody at Babson who helped me grow into the leader that I’ve become.”
Escobar will also be honored as a Natalie Taylor Scholar during the commencement ceremony. The program, named after a beloved former Babson professor, honors students who work to enact social change.
Meanwhile, Escobar took steps to ensure that Semillas Society continues as a haven and a hub of advocacy for all first-generation students at Babson.
She helped plan the second first-generation conference, scheduled for April 22 in Knight Auditorium, as part of that plan. Vitamin Water founder Mike Repole will be speaking at the event, along with Ken Bouyer, EY Americas Director of Inclusiveness Recruiting.
“They’re going to be able to walk by this tower during the tour and see that the first-generation identity is well-represented on this campus.”
Cindy Escobar '23
The GIVE tower will also become a dedicated living area for Semillas Society, Escobar said. The tower means that first-generation college students have a physical space to call home.
“They’re going to be able to walk by this tower during the tour and see that the first-generation identity is well-represented on this campus,” Escobar said. “They can know that there is a community that’s here for us, and there is a place that we belong.”
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