Mission & Vision

Our mission is to empower first-generation and/or low-income (FGLI) students and professionals nationwide to achieve their full potential by providing life and career advice, lists of support resources and mentorship opportunities through a technology platform with online tools. This platform is built for and by FGLI students, providing a real-life business and professional experience.

As we build this online platform, we envision a future where we close the achievement gap by increasing the graduation rate for FGLI college students to be closer to 77% than the current 9% (Source) and where no FGLI student has to navigate their path alone. We hope to be the first place they look when they need help in navigating the unfamiliar, don't know the right questions to ask, or want to connect to someone who's been through the same challenges they are encountering. Together as a community, we aim to support and empower this segment of our future leaders.


The idea for Rise First started as a vision from our founder, Cindy Rentala, to help more first-generation, low-income (FGLI) students to achieve their full potential. As an FGLI graduate herself, Cindy has mentored many FGLI students over the years. She noticed that with colleges and universities enrolling more FGLI students every year, the demand for support is growing. Though there are many national and local support programs, the most impactful programs only serve certain large cities or have limited capacity, leaving many underserved. In addition, there is no one-stop destination (or an easier way) to search for information and resources for FGLI students. Rise First was formed to fill this gap.

After drafting the initial business plan, during the February 2018 1vyG Conference at the University of Pennsylvania (her alma mater), Cindy recruited three FGLI students to join her on this passion project. A month later, the team grew to five students. Since one of the key missions of Rise First is to use the platform to help FGLI students hone real life business skills, the core team primarily consists of FGLI student volunteers serving as Vice-President, Chief Operations Officer, Treasurer, as well as heads of Design and Content. In a few short months, Rise First quickly went from a vision to a blueprint.

Though we are incredibly proud of our work to date, we are only at the beginning stage of our journey to achieve our goal of building a curated resource center and online community to serve FGLI students. We welcome you to join us on this journey.

Rise First Team

Executive Board

Cindy Rentala

Founder & Chief Executive Officer

David Thai

Vice President & Chief Content Officer

Kamilla Yunusova

Chief Operating Officer

Core Team

Kevin Yang

Chief Financial Officer

Ramune Bartuskaite

Chief Creative Director

Jesse Cui

Chief Technology Officer

Angela Zhang

Chief Marketing Officer

Raymond Liao

Marketing Associate

Lin Jia Chen

Marketing Associate

David Jasso

Content Developer

Andrew Lowrance

Content Developer

Amy Duong

Content Developer

Carmen Lau

UX/ UI Designer

Joseph Vukel

Business Development Associate

Hasbanny Irisson


Rise First Team


As it takes a community to support first-generation low-income students in a scalable way, we greatly appreciate the following individuals who have supported us with their advice, time, and/or generous donations:

Amaliya Yunusova - Barbara Lock - Cathy DuRei Morrissey - Cathy Tran - Devansh and Shivali Patel - Douglas Renfield-Miller - Elizabeth Cribbs - Elizabeth Sahakyan - Esther Yu - Haeley Giambalvo - Isabelle Oktay - Ji Jun - Josephine Ybarra - Juan Figueroa - Katherine Montrone - Kahleen and Trevor Rozowsky - Lynn Cetin, M.D. - Margaret Stevens - Mary Smart - Nancy Chew - Nicole Hazard - Peggy Powers - Peggy Toye - Rob Rosenblatt - Samuel Stevens - Tom Kibarian - Ula Hwang - Valerie de Cruz - Veronica Zamora-Campos, M.D.


ForeFront Logo

FourFront is a data science company that helps its clients get the most out of their websites, using analytical expertise and unique information-gathering technology to better understand digital markets and user behavior.

As a Rise First partner, FourFront generously donated both research and guidance that helped launch and optimize the Rise First website. With their expertise, we have been able to consistently grow our digital reach and help as many FGLI students and professionals as possible.