Students of the Month are nominated by their faculty, staff and fellow students for exemplifying what it means to be part of the RHSA.
Paige Magee, Nursing
Luis Maldonado Rezendes, Business
Jessica Tran, Business
Aurora Leal, Sociology
Al-Amin Muhammad, Computer Science
Isabella De Souza, Nursing
Jamie-Lyn Cavallon, Meteorology
Michelle Brempong, Psychology
Michelle Voong, Graphic Design
Charles Undag, Computer Science
Kawtar Abouyoussef, Music Studies
Congratulations to Kawtar Abouyoussef, November RHSA Student of the Month! Kawtar is a Music Studies major from Quincy, Massachusetts. Her interest in music started at a young age. She always enjoyed singing and expressing herself in that way, though she didn’t take singing seriously until her junior year in high school and figured she could make a career out of it. Music is a vital part of her life and she truly enjoys learning more about the art as time goes on. Her music is very diverse as it ranges from R&B to musical theater and she is currently listening to Daniel Caesar and Frank Ocean because of their unique artistic style. During her free time, she enjoys singing, biking, and making jewelry. During quarantine, she decided to make use of the spare time and learn something new: making jewelry. Kawtar says creating jewelry during the pandemic helped the time move faster.
As Kawtar has submerged herself into the UMass Lowell culture, she has learned to appreciate several things about the university. What stands out most is the sense of community and diversity. Although she isn’t able to walk around the campus just yet, in Zoom sessions it is evident that students communicate and get along well and she admires the fact that she can see people of all races and ethnicities on her screen. Kawtar has always had “a diverse group of friends that are a part of different cultures and have different identities.” She goes on to explain that “it’s horrible to be surrounded by the same exact people at all times.” She believes that it's important to learn about people and different cultures because it helps people refrain from being ignorant.
Throughout her journey of being a college student, she has learned quite a lot in a short amount of time. As she reflects on her first semester, a piece of advice she offers to students is to reach out for help. Faculty on campus are willing to help in any way they can and she wishes that during her first semester she was more vocal about needing assistance in some areas. She feels as if it would have saved her more time if she would have just taken advantage of the resources that were in front of her. Kawtar mentions that she wants to make it a goal during her spring semester to be “more intentional and reach out to faculty and my Peer Leader more often.”
The RHSA is an organization that Kawtar respects greatly. She acknowledges the fact that not every college has an established program that specifically caters to first-generation students and their success. She expresses that she is blessed to be a part of an organization where “a lot of the students are on the same boat and are experiencing the same thing.” Everyone is welcoming and she doesn't feel like an outsider and to her, that is one of the most important things.
Salma Dakiri, Business Administration - Finance
Congratulations to Salma Dakiri, November RHSA Student of the Month! Salma is a Business Administration major with a concentration in Finance. She resides in Methuen, Massachusetts and during her free time she enjoys reading books and most recently, due to the pandemic, she has submerged herself into the world of painting. She finds that it brings her at ease during a time of chaos and it’s something that has gotten her through this stressful time. It has brought her a lot of happiness and so, although quarantine has been a difficult adjustment, she is glad that she has found a new hobby that she most likely would have not found if it weren’t for the pandemic.
For Salma, UMass Lowell has been a savior and an institution that has relieved stress rather than cause it. She still feels comfortable and at ease even though her freshman year hasn’t been what she had expected. What she loves most about the university is that she “always has access to her professors or the staff in general. Everyone and everything is easy to reach.” It helps put her at ease knowing that everyone is so eager to help. She initially chose to attend UMass Lowell because through research she found that there were major benefits in being a River Hawk. With the positive experiences she has had with the faculty and staff, she is happy with her decision.
As a first-generation student, Salma is aware that she will face some obstacles and hardships. She is grateful that she has the RHSA to help her during those times and she knows she won’t face them alone. The RHSA has provided Salma with so many resources and opportunities that have made a positive impact on her life. From the many events offered to the support of her Peer Leader, she has been able to obtain leadership skills that she benefits from academically as well as in her day-to-day life. What the RHSA has made her realize the most is that “there are other students in the same position, trying to set an example and pave the way for the next generation.”She finds comfort in being surrounded by students she can relate to.
Looking back at her experience, Salma advises students to take advantage of every single opportunity sent their way. Resources, such as the tutoring center, the writing center, the library database, etc., are all meant to be utilized by students in order for them to be successful. She urges students to put themselves out there and to not be afraid because opportunities are there to support them, not hinder them.
Arthur Rosa, Computer Science
Congratulations to Arthur Rosa, November Student of the Month! Arthur is a Computer Science major from Everett, Massachusetts. His interest in Computer Science stems from high school and his fascination with technology. Like most people in this generation, he has grown up with technology and he has always felt a desire to learn more about it and improve it as time goes on. During his spare time, he enjoys going running, playing video games, and meeting new people. Although the pandemic has hindered his chances of meeting new people at this moment or being social in general, he is still hopeful about the future.
As a River Hawk, Arthur has grown to love many things about UMass Lowell. What he loves most are the resources that are readily available at all times for students. For example, he is appreciative of the tutoring center and the help that it provides. He finds that if he didn’t go to tutoring he “would be stuck for hours without any guidance.” With different time slots available throughout the day, he knows that there will always be a time for him to get the help that he needs to be successful academically. Arthur advises students to follow in his lead and get tutoring for courses that they are struggling with. With many classes being taught in a virtual setting, there is another layer of difficulty added to learning and the tutoring center helps students get through that layer.
Just like many people, Arthur is constantly asked about his future and what his future goals will be. As a freshman, he has not quite figured out what that will be. He doesn’t have a dream job in mind at the moment;however, he does have short term goals. He is currently focused on becoming more successful both academically and in his personal life as well. He hopes to become more independent as time passes and become the best version of himself that he can possibly be. Arthur goes on to explain that he wants to “join the co-op program and begin taking the initiative in all aspects of life.“ Although he doesn’t know exactly what job he wants, he wants to have the mindset to go out and find the job that he wants.
Prior to joining the RHSA, Arthur had never put much mind on what it meant to be a first-generation college student. Being a part of the RHSA has helped him understand the value of support groups of all backgrounds and the program has helped him grow and led him to resources that have helped him reach his goals.
Tyrus Wilson, Business Administration
Congratulations to Tyrus Wilson, October RHSA Student of the Month! Tyrus is a Business Administration major with a concentration in Management. His hometown is Washington D.C and he has been given the opportunity to attend UMass Lowell through the DC College Access Program (DCCAP). During his free time, he enjoys playing basketball as well as playing the guitar whenever his busy schedule allows him to. His interest in the guitar grew during his time in high school when he was forced to learn a different experience and he chose the guitar to embark on a new journey. He has stuck with it ever since then. As he takes on the college experience and studies management, he hopes to one day own a business of his own and apply the skills and knowledge he has learned to that business. He is looking forward to what the future holds, but until then he is enjoying all that UMass Lowell has to offer.
Tyrus chose to attend UMass Lowell for several reasons. One reason being that he had earned a large scholarship to attend the University. In his eyes, it is an amazing opportunity and one that neither him nor his family wanted to give up. He felt as if attending the university would be a step in the right direction. UMass Lowell became his overall choice because he wanted a different experience. He had lived his entire life in D.C and attending UML “is an experience that is different from the local colleges in Washington D.C.” This new experience gives him something to look forward to and he has the pleasure of interacting with other students that he would not have met if he would have remained local.
Although Tyrus has been a River Hawk for a short amount of time, he has grown appreciative of what the University has done for him, especially the RHSA. Being a part of the RHSA program has meant that he is not alone and he says it has been “a good support structure in helping with the first year of college and helping to make sure everything is on track.” The overall support has meant a lot to him and has made a difference in both his work ethic and drive to become successful.
Reflecting on his first semester in college, he believes everyone should “ask as many questions as necessary. Always have the intention of getting as much information as possible.” He has learned that asking questions has saved him a lot of time because he is not forced to find the answer on his own. Failing to ask questions can be detrimental to anybody, not only college students and he advises students to not be afraid of admitting that they need help. It is something he wishes he would have learned early on in the semester, but he is glad that he has adapted to it now.
Melanie Guerra, Chemistry
Congratulations to Melanie Guerra, October RHSA Student of the Month! Melanie is a Chemistry with Forensic Science major from Lawrence, Mass. Her interest in Forensic science began in elementary school when her fifth-grade science teacher introduced her to the subject. Prior to starting her senior year of high school, she was offered the opportunity to study Chemistry at Harvard in a science program to earn college credits. She became so intrigued by chemistry and figured she could make a career out of it. In her spare time, Melanie enjoys listening to music and oddly enough, she also enjoys watching YouTube videos of others studying. She explains that she gains helpful study tips and the videos motivate her to keep organized. She urges others to watch a couple of videos, there are always useful tips that can always improve anyone’s study habits.
Although her freshman year isn’t going how she expected with the University transitioning to virtual learning, she is still able to find things that she loves about UML without having to be on campus. For instance, she has grown a love for her professors and classmates and is appreciative of the fact that her professors are always enthusiastic, making it easier for her to enjoy her classes and feel comfortable. During a time where it has been difficult to connect with others, Melanie on the other hand has built a strong connection with her classmates. She loves the fact that “they are always so supportive and always find a way to be helpful regardless of everything being done via computer.”
As a young girl, Melanie always dreamt of accomplishing big things and that still remains true today. A future goal of hers is to earn her master’s degree from an ivy league school. Having had experience at Harvard and being exposed to that culture, she feels she can excel in that environment. She plans on one day earning both her masters and doctorate degrees from an ivy league and then work for the F.B.I as a Forensic Scientist - her dream job. She also hopes to become an advocate for Women in STEM and prove that women can become successful in a male-dominated industry. Melanie says “when you see a Latina go to an ivy league it makes other young girls think they can do it too.” She wants other women to know that they can make their dream a reality.
To Melanie, being in the RHSA means she is able to communicate with others who are experiencing the same things as her and viewing certain situations from their perspective. Being a part of the RHSA means “having a family to depend on and ask questions. You can see the different things that others have gone through and how they got through it.” To Melanie, it’s nice to know that she is not alone and that there are others on the same journey as her. From her perspective, the RHSA is in it together and will make it through together.
Amanda Stanley, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
Congratulations to Amanda Stanley, the October RHSA Student of the Month! Amanda is a double major in both Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. She values the fact that she is a female in a male-dominated industry and wants to make it known that a person’s gender does not determine their ability to be successful and work hard; what should matter most is their ability to hold an intellectual conversation and get the job done. Amanda fell in love with Electrical Engineering during her time in high school when she discovered her passion for coding and how much fun it turned out to be. During her spare time, she enjoys playing video games, coding new projects, and most importantly 3D printing. During her freshman year in high school, in order for her father to buy her a 3D printer, she bet him that she could create something useful in the world. That resulted in her creating a phone holder that connects to the side of your computer to prevent it from getting misplaced or knocked onto the floor. She ended up earning that 3D printer and hasn’t looked back since.
UMass Lowell has been a great experience for Amanda so far. Despite the fact that everything has transitioned to being virtual, she has been able to develop great relationships with her professors. They’ve been considerate of all the changes that have been made in order to adjust to the pandemic and she couldn’t be any more appreciative. Aside from the faculty, she loves that the University provides a multitude of opportunities for its students. Thanks to the Computer Science Department, she was granted the opportunity of teaching kids between the ages of 7-17 years old how to code. She further explained that “teaching code has always been an interest of mine because it is something that I am good at. I used to teach my classmates back in high school and I wanted to take it a step further.” UMass Lowell has given Amanda the chance to try something new and something she has always wanted to try, and the opportunity is important to her.
As someone who identifies as a first-generation college student, in her eyes it means “to be the first in the family to gain a degree and act as a role model.” She is the first in her family to take on this journey and it is up to her to help her younger siblings follow in her footsteps. Her parents did not get to continue their educational journey after high school and now that she has been granted the opportunity to do so, she wants to take advantage of the blessing and make the most of it. Not only does she want to make herself proud, but her family proud as well.
Although she has time to think about what she wants her future to look like, she is certain that in the near future she will be an Electrical Engineer but more importantly, she will be a role model for young girls who want to join STEM. They will look towards her and know that their potential is limitless and that there is not a glass ceiling hindering their success.
Altagracia Ceverino, Business Administration
AltagraciaCongratulations to Altagracia Ceverino, September RHSA student of the month! Altagracia is a Business Administration Major with a concentration in Entrepreneurship. She was born in the Dominican Republic and currently lives in Lawrence, Mass. In her spare time, she enjoys going on runs, playing softball, and occasionally likes to read. She aspires to become a successful business owner in the hospitality realm and she hopes to one day be the head owner of a hotel chain. Coming from a country where tourism is the main driver of the country’s economy, she feels as if going into the hotel business would be a beneficial move.
Altagracia wanted to attend UMass Lowell due to its highly acclaimed business program and the opportunities that are offered to students. Her main focus is seeking a great education and UMass Lowell offers her that and more. Coming from a city where many youth decide to opt out of higher education or do not have the opportunity or access, she wants to change the trajectory and give herself a better future. For her, UMass Lowell is “the right path and allows the freedom to do anything you set your mind to with a huge support system.” UMass Lowell gives her everything she needs to become successful and she is happy with her decision to attend the university.
Being a first-generation college student means carrying a tremendous weight in her eyes; the weight of being the first one in her family to seek higher education. To add to the pressure, Altagracia says there is also a “language barrier that gets in the way of being able to explain the struggles and stress of being a college student that no one understands.” Despite the pressure that she feels, what keeps her motivated is her determination for a better future and the life she desires to live.
Christopher Cedano, Applied Biomedical Science
CedanoCongratulations to Christopher Cedano, September RHSA student of the month! Christopher is an Applied Biomedical Science student and is taking the clinical pathway. Christopher is from Lawrence, Mass., and in his spare time he enjoys going on runs and spending time with his family. He especially enjoys taking some time out of his day to play video games in order to occupy himself during the quarantine.
Christopher chose to attend UMass Lowell because of the university’s well-known MLS program. Due to his past experience with biotechnology at his vocational high school, he wanted to continue down that path and gain more insight into his interest. He wanted to allow himself the opportunity to be challenged and driven to a greater position at UMass Lowell. During his short time at the university, he has grown to love the faculty and staff, especially his professors. He commends them on the fact that they are “dependable, especially since everything has transitioned to a virtual setting. Their email response time is quick, and they all tend to have a comforting and nice attitude towards everything.” He explains that they are always available to help answer questions and provide solutions to any problems he is experiencing, and he appreciates their efforts.
To Christopher, being a first-generation student means improving his socioeconomic status and providing financial freedom to both himself and his family. Both his parents were not able to complete their high school education while they lived in the Dominican Republic and he wants to be the one to change this pattern. He hopes to establish a better future for himself and his family and one day “become a homeowner and free his mom from debt and live a happier life.” Although it comes with a lot of pressure to be the one person to push his family forward, he does not mind because it is all in goodwill and he believes many positives things will come out of it.
Now that Christopher has gotten a grip on what it means to be a freshman in college, particularly a freshman during a pandemic, he advises students to ask for help. Many people get shy and refrain from seeking help, but he urges his peers to do so because it could be beneficial, and in several ways makes a positive impact on both students’ academic and social success. He wants others to understand that asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but rather bravery. It shows that students care about their future and their success most importantly.
Stella Cortese, Undeclared FAHSS
corteseCongratulations to Stella Cortese, September RHSA student of the month! Stella is an undeclared FAHSS student from Malden, Mass. Growing up, her days consisted of painting and swimming and not much has changed since then. She tends to spend her spare time painting and indulging in her creative side and she has piqued a new interest in photography in the midst of the pandemic. Stella finds it to be a good way to relax and settle down during the chaos that surrounds the world at this moment.
During her college decision-making process, UMass Lowell was at the top of her list in terms of both its size and its diverse community. The faculty on campus are welcoming, positive, and uplifting, but what Stella loves most about the university is its culture. She is appreciative of “the diversity and the fact that UMass Lowell is inclusive and welcomes students from all backgrounds.”
Reflecting on her family’s educational background, her parents didn’t have the opportunity to obtain a college degree. As she sets forward on her educational journey, she realizes that she and her older sister, who studies at UMass Boston, are pushing the family forward. Being a first-generation college student does have its struggles in her eyes. Having to take on the experience of college on her own and her parents not being able to understand the hardships she endures can be strenuous at times, but despite the struggles, Stella also sees being a first-gen student as an investment into both her and her family’s well-being. As her mother always says, “no matter what, always remember that education is never lost and is never useless.” Education always serves a purpose and that is the path she is taking.
For Stella, the RHSA has provided the comfort of being surrounded by other first-gen students who are experiencing the same things she is. The RHSA has provided advice and support that she cannot necessarily get back home. Most importantly, she feels at home as a member of the program and knows she will not be alone and always has a Peer Leader and other students to fall back on. Stella appreciates everything that the program has done for her and looks forward to what the future brings.