To date, FIU has raised more than $4 million for its First Generation Scholarship Fund.
Ashmara Williams was a ward of the state her entire childhood. In foster homes from Homestead to Naples – with very little support – Williams worked her way through grade school and attended Miami Dade College. Today she is an elementary education major at FIU and an entire community is supporting her.
Williams is one of 22 first-generation students who attended the DreamMakers luncheon Oct. 17. The students were there to meet and thank donors who have funded scholarships for them and their peers.
“Being a First Generation scholar has done a lot! It makes me feel like there are people who are willing to help,” said Williams.
The luncheon, held at the Coral Gables Country Club, is an annual fundraiser by FIU’s President’s Council. This year, the university raised more than $220,000 for first-generation students. With the state match, this translates into a total impact of more than $440,000.
“FIU is number one when it comes to providing hope and opportunity for the needy,” said President Mark B. Rosenberg to the more than 250 in attendance. “If there is one thing that is going to make a difference in this community, it is FIU. If there is one thing that is certain, it is FIU.”
Designed to bring a university education within reach, the First Generation Scholarship Fund provides support to qualified undergraduate students who are the first generation in their families to attain college degree.
Economics and finance major Antonio Ferguson is the oldest of five children. Neither of his parents completed high school (they got their GEDs years later).
To donors, Ferguson said, “thank you! I know I have my friends and family behind me but to know there are people who don’t even know me who are supporting me financially…. I hope to one day come back and contribute to other students’ success.”
From the podium, Rosenberg held up a textbook, Business Today, which is required-reading in most business classes. The book he says costs about $380 and it is only one of several books in one course. “This is why I increased my contribution,” he said.
At FIU, nearly 43 percent of financial aid recipients come from families with annual household incomes less than $30,000. First-generation students represent 53 percent of the undergraduate student body.
Keynote speaker Asiel Roque, a biological sciences major who arrived from Cuba when he was 13, said the scholarship fund is more than just about the money received for classes. “My whole college experience has been enhanced.”
Before he was a First-Generation scholar, Roque worked to pay for classes and help his family with the bills. Now, he is able to focus on school and participate in competitive programs and conferences at Yale and Harvard, respectively.
Roque was emotional when he shared with the audience the opportunities he’s had. “My favorite quote is ‘Don’t go where the path leads you. Go off the path and leave a trail.’ This is what I try to do. This is what FIU does. Thank you for making a very positive impact in my life.”
After the main program, master of ceremonies Ian Grocher ’99, a.k.a. DJ Irie, opened the floor to donors who shared their pledges. Jorge Villacampa, regional bank are president of Wells Fargo, renewed his pledge of $50,000. Others to announce their donations included President’s Council Member Manny Miranda who pledged $15,000 (with State Farm’s company match, it would be a $30,000 total contribution); Board of Directors Member Tom Cornish who announced the Cornish Family would donate $25,000; FirstBank Florida who pledged $10,000; Espirito Santo Bank announced they would be making a donation of $3,000; and numerous table captains who confirmed their table had 100% participation.
Since the scholarship’s inception in 2006, the university has raised more than $4 million for first-generation students. To donate to FIU’s First Generation Scholarship Fund, click here.