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First-gen construction management scholarship recipients see real results

First-gen construction management scholarship recipients see real results

January 5, 2021 at 10:30am

In 2017, Chad Moss—executive vice president of the national construction management company at Moss & Associates—made the largest donation ever from an alumnus to FIU. With a $10 million contribution from the Moss Foundation to the College of Engineering & Computing, three endowments were created, with one entirely dedicated to helping first-generation students through scholarship awards.

At FIU, approximately 90 percent of undergrads are minorities, with 25 percent being first-generation college students, the first in their families to attend college.

Three construction management students, in particular, know what it’s like to be a first-gen student, facing challenges that make education seem inaccessible. William Zepka, a junior in the construction management program, says the Moss scholarship allowed him to be a full-time college student.

“I didn’t start college right away after graduating high school, like a traditional student, due to financial reasons,” said Zepka, who began his college career as an accounting major at Miami-Dade College. “I switched to construction management because it’s very hands-on, and this scholarship has allowed me to dedicate more time to my schoolwork, instead of having to take fewer classes to work and pay bills.” 

Zepka has also been able to make time for experiences that will benefit him in his professional career. He applied to the Moss solar internship program and got in.

Through the internship, based in Phoenix, Arizona, Zepka has learned what it’s like to work at a construction site, how a solar panel site functions, and all the administrative details that go on behind the scenes. Zepka’s ultimate goal is to graduate in fall 2021 and work for a construction company like Moss & Associates.

Missalaine Laurent, a senior in the construction management program, also benefitted from the Moss scholarships. Growing up in a low-income neighborhood in Leisure City, Laurent would watch the Home and Garden Television (HGTV) channel often, which is what inspired her to pursue a career in either real estate or construction management.

Having always aspired to obtain a college degree, Laurent chose the construction management direction.

“You don’t really need a degree to be in real estate, and there’s still some element of design in construction management,” says Laurent. “FIU offers a course where we get to design a blueprint in a 3D version.”

The scholarship has helped Laurent pay for tuition and housing. Her goals are to work in real estate development, combining both real estate and construction management.

With the aid she has received, Laurent looks to give back by establishing a charitable organization to build homes in Haiti for the less fortunate without a place to call home.

Maria Capela, a senior in the construction management program, has also seen the impact of educational aid. Capela was awarded the Sasha Seco Women in Construction 2020 scholarship, part of the Moss Foundation Scholarship Endowment, receiving $2,500 in aid for her studies.

“I first heard about the scholarship through FIU’s website and decided to apply for it,” Capela said. “It has helped me overcome many challenges that I faced during these uncertain times and reminds me that there are still community members helping each other through difficult times.”

That sense of community is what inspired Capela to pursue a degree in construction management. “It’s a field where we are making a big difference in our communities, plus no two days are the same in construction, and that is very exciting to me.”

Between 2019 and 2020, the Moss Foundation has awarded more than $45,000 to construction management students.

William Zepka
Missalaine Laurent
Maria Capela