Fund Helps Students Become First in Family to Attend College | Schools

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Fund Helps Students Become First in Family to Attend College
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Fund Helps Students Become First in Family to Attend College

Earning a college degree may seem like an impossible dream to students hoping to be the first in their families to attend college, but it’s not anymore. The University of North Florida will recognize students who are the first in their families to seek a four-year college degree during a First Generation Scholarship Luncheon, supported by THE PLAYERS Championship, at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, April 7, at the University Center on campus.

UNF received a $250,000 gift from THE PLAYERS Championship Charities Inc. last spring to provide First Generation scholarships to students who are first in their families to go to college. THE PLAYERS made a five-year commitment to provide scholarships to the University, which will be matched by the state on a dollar-for-dollar basis, doubling the impact of the gift to $500,000.

More than 300 UNF students were awarded First Generation scholarships in 2010-2011, thanks to University fundraising efforts and Florida’s First Generation Matching Grant Program. The program began in 2006, when the Florida Legislature appropriated $6.5 million statewide to be matched by private donations. In the past five years, just under 1,200 UNF students have been a part of this scholarship opportunity, using a total of $3.6 million to achieve their dreams.

“The First Generation scholarship has the potential to change the future for entire families,” said UNF President John A. Delaney. “I believe that giving a student the opportunity to be the first in his or her family to go to college is truly a great gift.”

For UNF senior Lamar Boyde, a vocal performance major, life has become somewhat of a symphony since he first received a First Generation scholarship. Growing up, he never knew his father. It was just him, his mother and little sister; but his mother made sure that music was a part of their everyday lives—memories he will cherish forever.

One day when Boyde, a Southside resident, was in the ninth grade, something happened that changed his life forever: his mother was diagnosed with cancer. After his mother’s death, he and his sister went to live with his grandmother. In order to cope with his grief, he built a wall around his emotions, withdrawing from many activities that he loved, except music.

His high school teacher refused to let him give up singing and saw something in Boyde that he couldn’t see in himself. “I’m so happy now to be at UNF, working on singing, becoming a strong musician, learning to be a leader and knowing that I can have a positive impact on this world. Through my studies, I have a grown as a person,” said Boyde.

Last May, he participated in a transformational learning opportunity through the University and was part of a performance tour to Italy with the UNF Chorale. He performed in historical venues like St. Mark’s in Venice, Santa Maria Maggiore and more. Boyde also started an a cappella group at UNF called The Perfect Fifths. In addition to performing fundraising concerts, his group is spending time at local high schools in order to spread the love of music.

UNF junior Elizabeth Corriveau, a psychology major who lives on campus, also has had her life changed because of a First Generation scholarship. She grew up in a dysfunctional family, surrounded by hostility and alcohol abuse. At the age of 7, her parents divorced and she was bounced around to different homes so many times that she never bothered to unpack her suitcase.

She was also diagnosed with a learning disability in the first grade and was a fair student in elementary school. But that soon changed. When she entered middle school, she did poorly in most of her classes and even failed one of her classes. She was so embarrassed and scared.

Corriveau then moved to a new school with small classes and teachers who cared. That’s when she really started to excel. She poured her energy into schoolwork with remarkable results and years later, became valedictorian of her graduating class.

“Here at UNF, I am thriving in an environment that is perfect for me—small classes and professors who care. I live on campus, no more living out of a suitcase,” she said. “I’m taking advantage of all the campus has to offer, including sessions at the Counseling Center on campus to help me overcome demons from my past.”

The University has a goal of raising $400,000 for this fall in private support, which will be matched by the state and will provide $800,000 in need-based First Generation scholarships. To date, $200,000 has already been raised. Students who receive this scholarship must meet UNF’s academic standards. The University anticipates awarding scholarships averaging $2,500 to at least 300 deserving students each year.

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