Alumni pay it forward by helping students with scholarship dollars

Senior Robert Grimal has always been active on campus. Determined to play intramural soccer during his freshman year, he joined the fraternity Sigma Phi Epsilon to participate on a team. During his junior year, he became a student ambassador to represent the student body at university and community functions. He even chose to work at FIU and served as a student assistant in the College of Business and the Office of Engagement.

Robert Grimal

Robert Grimal was one of 10 recipients of Alumni Association scholarships this year. Photo by Alexis Puentes.

In recognition of his involvement at FIU outside of the classroom, the Alumni Association recently awarded a $750 scholarship to Grimal, one of 10 students so honored in 2013. To date 90 have received help over the years to pay for tuition and books thanks to the Panther Pride and FIU Legacy scholarships administered through the FIU Student Alumni Association Scholarship Fund. In the past decade, alumni and friends of the school have helped the association raise $73,000 in support of students who demonstrate good grades and a history of school involvement.

With an undergraduate degree in hand, Grimal plans to continue his journey with FIU – this time as a graduate student in engineering management. “FIU is my home,” he said. “I am a proud Panther.”

The Alumni Association holds several events throughout the year to help raise money for its scholarship fund, among them an annual fishing tournament, now in its eleventh year, and, this year for the first time, an innovative fundraiser in partnership with the FIU Police Department. “Dunk a Cop” took in $5 donations from students, faculty and staff for a chance to hit the target on a dunk tank featuring one of FIU’s finest sitting in the wet seat.

“Every year we try to establish new methods to raise funds,” said Enrique Piñeiro, chair of the association’s scholarship committee. “The important thing to know is that this is the easiest and quickest way to directly impact current students. One hundred percent of the funds collected are given back to the students,” Piñeiro said. “There are no expenses or administrative fees. Every single penny goes back to scholarships.”

Alumni Association scholarship recipients 2013

2013 scholarship recipients Rebecca Merek, Vanessa Franco, Michael Aquino, Nicole Fowler and Mary Corbin with Roary.

This year, the association received ten times as many applications as available scholarships.

Separately, the Alumni Association holds events to support the university-wide First Generation Scholarship Fund, which benefits students who are the first in their families to attend college. Proceeds from the annual Torch Awards, which honor outstanding alumni, and the DreamMakers Luncheon, which is promoted and supported by the 40-some alumni who sit on the President’s Council, contributed nearly $200,000 during the 2012-13 school year.

Duane Wiles, Associate Vice President of Alumni Relations, said helping to fund scholarships is important for the Alumni Association because it is a priority of the school “and we are a part of FIU.”

“Our goal is to create opportunities for engagement,” Wiles said. “We want to establish life-long partnerships between students, alumni and the institution.”

For Grimal the bond with his alma mater is already solid, and he looks forward to giving back to FIU one day as a mentor. “FIU is not going to get rid of me,” he says.   

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