Kessler Scholars Program
The Kessler Scholars Program at Syracuse University is part of the national Kessler Scholars Collaborative along with 15 other institutions. Together, these schools are transforming the undergraduate experience for first-generation college students. Students who join the Kessler Scholars Program are part of a powerful network of first-generation leaders, connected across multiple institutions throughout their undergraduate college experience and beyond.
Founded at the University of Michigan by the Judy and Fred Wilpon Family Foundation, the Kessler Scholars Program has established a leading support
model for first-generation students. The program is distinct in that it provides comprehensive support through wrap-around, multi-tiered services to ensure students’ success from admissions through graduation.
Breana Nieves Vergara, Coordinator of Mentoring Programs
Breana Nieves Vergara joined Multicultural Affairs in July 2021. As coordinator of mentoring programs, Breana is responsible for maintaining both the fullCIRCLE and Dimensions mentoring programs, as well as leading Latinx Hispanic Heritage Month and supporting the Kessler Scholars Program.
Breana received a bachelor’s degree in sociology with minors in Latinx studies and education studies from Ithaca College. During her time at Ithaca College, she was a part of the BOLD Women’s Leadership Network, which provided her with the opportunity to pursue a year-long Helen Gurley Brown fellowship post-graduation. As a Syracuse native who was previously an On Point for College student herself, Breana worked for the organization and served as the programming fellow where she created and coordinated their mentorship program.
Breana is interested in initiatives that focus on guiding students on their academic journeys, as well as creating an environment that encourages identity development and fosters community. In her free time, Breana enjoys spending time with her partner, and their cats, Fernando and Oliver. She also enjoys exploring waterfalls, trying new recipes and reading ethnographies.
Jurnee Peltier, Academic Consultant
Jurnee Belou Peltier is an Afro-Caribbean master’s student from Boston, Massachusetts. She graduated from Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs in May 2023, earning a bachelor's degree in international relations with a concentration in francophone studies and intercultural communication. Currently continuing her studies at the University, Jurnee is pursuing a master’s degree at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications in the multimedia, photography and design program. Jurnee finds herself most fulfilled when documenting experiences through digital storytelling, and is excited to begin her studies in the media and photography industry. On campus, Jurnee is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and a staff photographer for the Fashion Design Society.
From a young age, Jurnee was exposed to travel and world cultures, prompting her emphasis in the importance of intercultural communication, representation of minority communities and the mastering of cultural competence. Jurnee is committed to fostering relationships and supporting students of multicultural backgrounds, ethnicities and racial identities. In addition to her three years of experience in advising students as a resident advisor for the Upperclassmen Multicultural Living Learning Community in Ernie Davis Hall, she began her work with Multicultural Affairs as a mentee and then mentor for the fullCIRCLE mentoring program.
As an academic consultant for the Kessler Scholars Program, Jurnee is excited to get to know and support the incoming first-year students and peer mentors!
As part of the Kessler Scholars Program, we provide students with scholarship aid, dedicated support and services, robust opportunities for community-building and leadership development, and a laptop. This includes exclusive access to career-enrichment opportunities, service projects, social events, a peer mentor and dedicated staff. Kessler Scholars also receive financial support to study through one of the University's off-campus programs (international study abroad location, New York City, Los Angeles or Washington, D.C.).
Events and Seminars
- Team Building with Barnes Center at The Arch
- Goal Setting and Time Management
- Starting Early with Career Preparation
- Community Service with the Office of Engagement Programs
- Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
- Navigating First Semester as First-Generation College Student
- Health and Wellness with Barnes Center at The Arch
- Annual Kessler Scholars Coin Ceremony
- Looking Back and Ahead (Timeline and Goals Map | Short and Long-Term Goals)
- Mental Health and Stress Management
- Managing Imposter Syndrome
- Healthy Relationships and Sexual Health
- Learning about Undergraduate Research with the SOURCE
- First-Gen Alumni Panel Discussion and Networking
- Financial Literacy Basics
- Meet and Network with Administrators and Learn More About Campus Resources
The Kessler Scholars are a close-knit community of well-rounded, talented students who identify as first-generation, or the first in their immediate family to go to college. Each year, Syracuse University selects 15–20 incoming first-generation students to join the Kessler Scholars Program.
Alicia Ingabire, Class of 2024 Kessler Scholar
"The Kessler Scholar Program prepared me to have a successful college experience by giving me extensive knowledge of the resources available on campus, providing support in both academic and emotional growth, and helping me find a community of individuals who shared similar experiences to me. To be able to have the support of this program, especially during the pandemic, was monumental for me because of the stress and pressure that comes with being a first-generation college student. Although it’s difficult to navigate higher education systems by myself, it means the world to me to be able to achieve the goals that my parents weren’t able to. I really appreciated that I didn’t have to fend for myself with Kessler; the mentorship was truly the most impactful part of the program and my freshman year. My mentor was extremely supportive and helpful in making me feel comfortable on campus. My mentor’s support benefited me so much that I decided to become a mentor myself! Now a sophomore, I am a Kessler mentor, alongside being a mentor for Dimensions, a program focused on women of color. I’m also part of The Helpful and Ethical Leadership Project, a program focused on providing aid to the homeless in Syracuse, the Sustainability Committee of Syracuse’s Student Association, and La Société Francophone."
Jay Crosby, Class of 2024 Kessler Scholar
"The connections that I have made in this program are the best part of the experience. Not only have I made friends through the program, but also just being able to have the knowledge at my disposal of so many people who all play different and important parts here at Syracuse is amazing and a great resource to have. "
Erykah Pasha, Class of 2024 Kessler Scholar
"I'm a Syracuse native currently in the Maxwell School trying to use my time at Syracuse University to help my community within the city. Kessler 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 experiences include us playing Among Us during one of our weekly meetings and being connected to so many helpful resources both on campus and outside. With support from Kessler, I spent a semester in Washington, DC. It was both challenging and fun; from interning at the Department of Education during the day and having classes in the evening, to going to museums, the zoo, and other attractions (mostly for free!) during my free time. I hope to find my way back to DC in some way, whether through school or work in the future."
Sebastian Lopez, Class of 2025 Kessler Scholar
"I come from an immigrant family, both from Medellin, Colombia. I lived in the city all my life and at first, I never expected to go to Syracuse University. I always thought it was this far-out dream I had. This was true until May 4, the day before I had to pay my college deposit. I received this email from the Kessler Program, telling me they will give me scholarship money if I go to Syracuse. If it wasn’t for that one email, I wouldn’t be in the school of my dreams. I have a lot to thank Kessler for—giving me the grand opportunity of attending Syracuse, giving me an amazing community of like-minded people, and plenty of friends. Kessler has been a great part of my life and I will never forget them."
Alie Savane, Class of 2025 Kessler Scholar
"My favorite Kessler experience was the Kessler Challenge Coin Ceremony at the Chancellor’s House. It was great to get all dressed up and connect with fellow Kessler Scholars, as well as JT Baker, a recent Cornell University alumnus. Hearing his inspiring story as a first-generation college student was incredibly empowering. Also, getting to meet and talk to Fred Wilpon, the donor that makes Kessler possible, was amazing. Being highlighted and honored with the Kessler Challenge Coin was such a special moment. Being a part of Kessler is an excellent opportunity to have a head start on your semester by beginning in the summer with SummerStart. Also, having an entire community dedicated to guiding you towards success, that are also available for any questions and concerns you may have, helped me immensely while navigating through my first year."
Kessler Scholars must be full-time enrolled students at Syracuse University who identify as first-generation college students.
In addition, scholars must maintain a 3.0 GPA; participate in the program-sponsored workshops, group gatherings and special events; attend regular meetings with peer mentors and staff; and engage in community service.