Living the Dream: 1st Generation Scholarship Students
First Generation scholarships benefit FIU students pursuing college dreams
FIU senior Antoni Alvarez Barzaga began his computer science studies in Cuba, where he got as far as his fourth year and realized his opportunities were limited on an island where his travels and even his computer access would be restricted.
Seeking opportunities elsewhere, he left Cuba and eventually made his way to South Florida four years ago, where he immediately began working and studying. Now, a few months away from earning a computer science degree at FIU, Alvarez, 26, is grateful for the opportunities the First Generation Scholarship afforded him.
A 4.0 GPA student, Alvarez spent a summer in New York City interning as an analyst at the investment banking and securities firm Goldman Sachs.
The First Generation Matching Grant Program is a financial aid program for students like Alvarez, who represent the first generation in their families to attend college.
To qualify for the First Generation Matching Grant Program at FIU, a student must be a first generation college student, qualify as a Florida resident for tuition purposes, be enrolled in and accepted for admission by FIU, be an undergraduate degree-seeking student taking at least six credits per term, and have demonstrated financial need.
The program, which was created by the state Legislature in 2006, appropriated $6.5 million statewide to match private donations for the First Generation program. At FIU, where many students are the first in their families to attend college and sometimes have to help support their families while pursuing a degree, almost $2 million has been distributed to approximately 3,000 students during the past two academic years.
Helen Garcia, 23, is another of the beneficiaries of the program. A senior majoring in biology who also has a 4.0 average, she is planning to give back by becoming a doctor. Garcia, a native of Honduras who moved to South Florida five years ago, began her medical studies in Honduras but had to start over when she came to the United States with her father and sister.
Today, Garcia is in FIU"s Honors College and is engaged in research involving the way nurses work with families of cancer patients. She also works as a volunteer at Miami Children"s Hospital.
“The First Generation grant has been great,” said Garcia, whose younger sister also is an FIU student but whose mother and two other siblings still live in Honduras. “It has helped a lot since my father, who works as a truck driver, is the only one supporting our family. Sometimes your parents dream of great things but they never have an opportunity to live those dreams. My parents are really glad that I have this opportunity and that I"m taking advantage of it.”
Garcia said she is particularly grateful to those who have donated money to the First Generation program.
“It"s amazing to know that people who do not even know me are willing to support the fulfillment of my dreams,” she said.
For information on making a donation to the First Generation program, please call FIU Annual Giving at 305-348-7514 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.