‘First Generation’ students break barriers

It isn’t the scholarship money that motivates these students to fulfill their dreams. The companionship of the First Generation Program, in association with the Multicultural Academic and Support Services, creates a close-knit community for those who take advantage of its boundless resources.

“Being part of the First Generation Program overall made me motivated to strive for more. The program does not do the work for you, but it enabled me with the steps to take and taught me how to go about networking and using all the programs on campus to benefit me,” sophomore medical laboratory sciences major Danielle Abbitt said.

She is one of the 33 students who won this year’s scholarship, given annually to students who come from parents who have not received a bachelor’s degree.

“We want to help them through the philosophy of excellence,” Director Assistant of First Generation Natalia Leal said.

There will be an increased amount of requirements to be met before a student qualifies to win the award during the 2011-2012 school year, but the paperwork remains in the draft stage as of now. In addition to the biographical essay and GPA requirement of 2.75, a recommendation letter from either a faculty or staff member is encouraged.

“One of my favorite quotes from Mr. Wayne Jackson [director of MASS] is, ‘It’s not just what you know, or who you know, who knows you. It’s the relationships that count,'” scholarship winner and junior elementary education major Yanique Vaughn said.

Scholarship applicants will attend six MASS Experiences throughout the following year, which include any number of Lunch and Learns, volunteer hours, roundtable sessions, workshops and other guest speaker events.

Lunch and Learn is a part of the program that allows the students to build relationships with their professors; this brings them new mentors who can provide them with a connection to a network outside of the UCF environment and help direct them toward a path in the direction of their desired career.

The First Generation Program also highlights workshops and volunteer opportunities other organizations offer college-wide.

Not only does the program bring people together from all over UCF, but offers workshops on topics touching different skills such as résumé writing tips, advice on how to interview well and shows them how to go about securing an informational interview with a potential employer.

Abbitt and Laura Weissbaum are two of the many scholarship winners who have been highly proactive within the program.

“Although I could not enjoy this program previously, it is preparing me so much for my future, as though I can go into graduate school and hit the ground running. I do not want the fact that I am a first generation student to hold me back ever again,” said Weissbaum, a psychology major who just joined the program last year.

There are many motivations behind the reasons why these young adults strive for more of a better grasp on the keys to success.

“The scholarship acts as an incentive for them to take the right steps to succeed,” Jackson said. “We try to use as many resources as possible to let them know what’s available to them.”

Applications are due tentatively during the end of the spring semester next year.

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