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FIU scholars thank donors at first University-Wide Scholarship Breakfast


Every day, Daniela Chavez comes to FIU knowing that she has the support of someone she has never met.

A group of FIU scholars surrounds longtime university supporter Sanford Ziff. Photo: Gloria O’Connell.

Because of that, the sophomore physics and mechanical engineering major is taking an impressive 17 credits and filling her free time with a learning assistantship in the departments of Physics and Mathematics and Statistics. And that is when she’s not in the Discovery Lab, participating on the TeBot project, helping to build humanoid robots that mirror movements for people with disabilities.

Chavez is able to do this, in part, thanks to a $500 Ralph Sanchez Grand Prix Scholarship she received this year.

“What can I say? I’m really thankful,” she said. “It’s not only a financial help, but it’s also something that motivates me when I’m tired. I don’t take it for granted because it’s something that’s going to help me achieve my dream of one day building spaceships.”

The Peruvian-born student was among the 85 scholars who attended the inaugural University-Wide Scholarship Breakfast Sept. 10 at Modesto A. Maidique Campus. The event was designed as an opportunity to allow students to express their gratitude. FIU has raised and distributed more than $8.2 million in private scholarship funds to almost 3,500 students during the past five years.

The group of Panthers charged up their batteries for the week ahead with a delicious meal and collectively thanked new and longtime FIU supporters, like Sanford Ziff, who has supported the College of Education for more than two decades.

“To see all these young, beautiful, bright people who have aspirations for their future is so wonderful,” the philanthropist said. “For me, to have been a part of such a progressive university for all these years, it’s the best.”

“Dr. Ziff continues to be a leading supporter of our students, of the university and of our college,” said College of Education Dean Delia Garcia. “His support is a testament to the work that we’re doing here, and I salute him.”

Putting a face to the check

Transcending the oft-anonymous nature of giving and receiving attracted a lot of the students to the breakfast.

“It’s good to meet the donors because it gives them an opportunity to see us, to put a name and face to their donation, and see that their money is not going to waste,” said fourth-year medical student Dillon Arango, who has benefited from the $50,000 Alfredo Sesana and Gloria Grajales Scholarship fund established at the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine in 2009.

“Plus, we get to show our appreciation,” said Arango’s classmate, Joao Fontouro, a recipient of the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine General Scholarship.

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