Class of 2016: Daniela Canas Baena ’16 and Juliana Canas Baena ’16: Building First-Generation Community at Scripps

Daniela Canas Baena '16 and Juliana Canas Baena '16

As the first in their family to attend college, Ontario, California, natives Juliana and Daniela Canas Baena immediately felt the strong support of their first-generation peers at Scripps. Before beginning their first year at the College, the twins participated in the First-Generation@Scripps program, which allowed them to connect with fellow first-years, staff, and professors who identify as first-gen or first-generation-student allies, and first-generation sophomores, juniors, and seniors who served as mentors throughout the year. First-Generation@Scripps helps build a community for first-generation students, organizing workshops and social events and providing information about resources. The twins reflect that, among the many advantages of the program, they benefitted the most from the “relationships that have provided comfort and support for us during our time at Scripps.”

Their experiences with First-Generation@Scripps inspired Daniela and Juliana to become more deeply involved in the program.

“We wanted to give back to a community that has helped Scripps feel like home and has supported and encouraged us in each step,” they explained.

As sophomores, they mentored incoming first-years, helping to make the transition to college life for new first-generation students a smooth one. They also worked for Scripps College Academy (SCA), an intensive, multiyear, pre-college program for high-achieving young women with limited resources who seek to become the first generation in their families to attend college.

Then, as seniors, the twins worked as interns with the College’s First-Gen Team, coordinating workshops aimed at equipping first-year students for success. Since fall 2015, they have added six new academic and social workshops to the offerings, ranging in theme from academic support for students participating in the Core Curriculum in Interdisciplinary Humanities to guidance on how to transition into returning home during academic breaks. They have also planned several events, including a retreat and large dinner in Claremont with all of the mentors and mentees.

Daniela and Juliana also served as co-editors of the First-Gen Newsletter, which highlights the achievements of Scripps’ first-generation community and encourages constructive dialogue between first-generation students and allies. The newsletter, which began in 2013, is published at the beginning of each month and features content written by first-generation students as well as the editors. Past publications have included testimonials about coping with homesickness, articles on recognizing diversity within the Scripps community, and coverage of first-generation student events.

Despite their busy academic lives—the sisters are dual majors in politics and international relations and foreign languages, Spanish and Italian—Daniela and Juliana agree that the most rewarding part of their Scripps experience has been as student workers. “The experiences I have had in my jobs have made me a better student and a more active member of this community, ” says Daniela.

Juliana also shares this sentiment. “In working with SCA and First-Gen, I have been able to invest and advocate for communities that I deeply care about and want to see succeed,” she says. “Mentoring and encouraging these diverse and talented students gives me an overwhelming sense of satisfaction.”

While Daniela and Juliana are excited about meeting new people, traveling, and being in the workforce in the coming years, there are a number of things they will miss about being at Scripps. Among many fond memories of their time here, the two will most remember “working with Sonia and all the amazing first-gen students. We’ve seen them transform into confident, courageous, and hopeful Scripps students, and it is a beautiful journey to partake in.”

Post-graduation, the twins plan to take a family vacation to Colombia, work as facilitators with Scripps College Academy one last time, and begin work in an administrative capacity in higher education.

For more about the Class of 2016, click here.