Amel Popovac

Amel Popovac

River Hawk Scholars Academy Peer Leader



Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences


Applied Biomedical Sciences


Saugus, MA

Favorite Hobbies? 

Gardening, endurance running, thinking in liminal spaces

What’s your favorite thing about UML?

Being surrounded by an overall generous and gritty group of students and teachers alike who are unilaterally geared towards supporting one another in any sort of situation (whether relational to their profession or not).

What are your future goals?

I aspire to pursue Medical School after my undergraduate and to become licensed as a primary care physician in a clinical hospital.

What has being involved with the RHSA meant to you?

Being involved in the RHSA has given me substantially better confidence and foundation to access and use many of UMass Lowell’s accessible resources to my advantage. It has additionally helped me establish some of my own that I have used through various collaborations with professors whether it be through after-school office hours or with study guides. With RHSA mentoring, I have found my grounds for making sure I maximize my major’s study as well as making sure I can keep track of and organize my class portfolio for the Pre-Med pathway.

Looking back, what advice would you give to yourself freshmen year?

If I could give myself better advice in my first year, it would be to have seized more opportunities to augment my schedule and use resources that were left at my disposal better. I feel as though I was more lost when beginning my undergraduate track and as a result, may have missed more opportunities that I only now have come to fully fathom.

What advice would you give fellow students?

Keep your head high and own up to mistakes. They are inevitable and the best course of action is to always know how to squeeze yourself out of them than to always try to prevent them from happening. Risks are something that always needs to be accounted for in such an arduous setting as college.

Why did you choose to attend UMass Lowell?

I chose UMass Lowell not only because of my less privileged background, income-wise; I chose it more so because I felt like I could identify and feel at home with it the most. Not only is it a school that most students in my community typically enroll in, but it also yields competent and strong resources with which people can reliably apply their creativity and collective grit to strive in. It’s diversity and the overall community is also extremely friendly and supportive.

First-generation college students are defined at UMass Lowell as students whose parent(s) have not completed a four-year college/university degree.  Based on the definition provided above – or based on your own perception of your identity – do you identify as being a first-generation college student?

While the identity of a first-generation student may be subjective and vary for many, I personally have my own story as to how I came to find myself in this pool of ambitious minds who each aspire to be something greater for their respective families. Being a first-generation immigrant, my parents were both refugees of war who fled imminent persecution and oppression in their homeland around the same age that I am now in the early 1990s. With this came the excruciating yet inevitable reality of never being able to finish the college degrees they both eagerly sought to accomplish. My father originally wanted to be a mechanical engineer but was instead forced to work long grueling hours, picking up a variety of whatever jobs were made available to him as a carpenter at Mass General Hospital. He often had to work many hours in his shift just to provide enough money for food on the table. My mom suffered a similar fate, having to lay down her dream of finishing veterinary school to take care of my sister and me in our house growing up.

What does it mean to you to be a first-generation college student (if you identify as one)? 

A first-generation college student is a student like all others. There is nothing that sets them inherently different as a human-being holistically speaking. With that being said, however, each student shares their own individual struggles and successes that allow them to be unique in their respective overlay. For me, a first-generation college student possesses the uniqueness of being more emboldened and daring, than many are in college. The notion of tapping into uncharted territories with your family or friends or whoever is there to support you being on your side gives you a sense of rejuvenation and asserted drive towards pushing yourself to not give up and to explore your new paths with stark ambition.

What inspires you to want to help first-generation students in the River Hawk Scholars Academy?

I believe that the strongest-minded people are the ones who are willing to be humble enough to give back and help a greater cause. The cause in this particular case being the help of fellow students in troubling times and setting them on the path to personal prowess and perseverance built up to do great things. I, as a student and as a peer leader, seek to be a friend and a helper to all students and know that my fellow first-generation peers may greatly cherish that extra help and guidance in navigating college overall when they face the impediment of this being a blind first trial experience (AKA first generation) with no aid or guidance to rely on from parents or guardians.