Students of the Month are nominated by their faculty, staff and fellow students for exemplifying what it means to be part of the RHSA.
Kevin Malone, Computer ScienceCongratulations to Kevin Malone, a September RHSA student of the month! Kevin is a first year student in the Kennedy College of Sciences from Springfield, Massachusetts. Kevin is studying Computer Science, belongs to the Honors College, and hopes to develop software related to video game animation, and other forms of entertainment to “build a community of escapism for people who want to feel comfortable being who they are without being mistreated or judged.”
While exploring options for universities, UMass Lowell was at the top of Kevin’s list due to its rank amongst other public Massachusetts universities. When discussing why he chose to attend UMass Lowell, Kevin said he was drawn to the university due to its research based curriculum. His favorite thing about the university is the amount of opportunities that enable him to meet different types of people of various cultural backgrounds and interests, which came as a surprise to him. Kevin also mentioned how he pushes himself to do new things while having autism, in which he described makes it more difficult for him to understand and adapt to new social situations. He said that at first, college intimidated him; however, he has found that the diverse, welcoming community has allowed him to continue on working to be confident in branching out and socializing with others.
When asked about what advice he wished he received before starting his college journey seven weeks ago, Kevin reflected on how important it is for someone to reach out for help when they need it: “you need to reach out if you need help and you also need to manage your time wisely, don't procrastinate.” Kevin is involved in many extracurriculars at the university and enjoys the opportunity to meet other people since programs, such as the RHSA, have allowed him to meet others like him, who understand what it is like to be the first in their family to work towards a degree in higher education.
For Kevin, the RHSA has provided him with a community where he can connect with other first-year, first-generation college students. When reflecting on what it meant for him to be a first-generation college student, Kevin noted that he is granted an opportunity to pursue an education, which his other family members weren’t able to do. He is very grateful for his ability to attend a public university to pursue his bachelors in Computer Science and may potentially go on to receive a masters degree down the line. Kevin seems to be adjusting to campus gracefully, and the RHSA can’t wait to see him continue to grow on campus!
Camden Hedrick, PsychologyCongratulations to Camden Hedrick, an October RHSA student of the month! Camden is a first year student in the College of Fine Arts Humanities and Social Sciences from Kentucky. He is currently studying Psychology and plans to potentially minor in education. With his degree, Camden aspires to help people. His potential career goal may involve teaching, or becoming a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist. Growing up, Camden struggled with managing his ADHD, and wants to be able to help others and be the figure in his life he’d longed for as a child.
When asked about what his favorite things about the university were, Camden spoke of how he enjoys the numerous green spaces where students are able to relax, converse, and unwind. He also noted how being located in the city, the university has both a busy city, and quiet, zen-like feel to it, making it the best of both worlds, and having something to appeal to everyone.
Camden participated in the RHSA’s First-to-Launch summer program this past summer, where he met many RHSA students and Peer Leaders. He said that his initial involvement in the program ignited his immersion into the first-gen community, and that he was thankful for this opportunity. When speaking of the RHSA, Camden noted how he was grateful to be a part of something on campus where he is able to relate to others in similar shoes as him.
When asked about what advice he wished he had known prior to entering college, Camden shared that he would advise others to to step out of his comfort zone and reach out to people: “Don’t spend your time alone, be sure to branch out, and keep trying,” saying how putting oneself out there is hard, but people are out there, and you’re not alone. Camden also shared that students should not procrastinate, but to stay on top of things. He also noted the importance of being sociable and getting to know one’s professors.
For Camden, being involved with the RHSA has meant that he is choosing a differing career path than his other family members. He is proud of all he has accomplished so far on his college journey!
Jonathan Vixamar, Business ManagementCongratulations to Jonathan Vixamar, an RHSA October Student of the Month! Jon is a Business Management student with a concentration in Finance from the South Shore. His hobbies include being an athlete, playing and watching sports such as football, basketball, and track & field, and working on cars.
When asked about what his favorite things at UMass Lowell were, Jon spoke highly of the “great sense of community” he has found here through his involvement in the university's track and field team and the RHSA program. He mentioned that he is grateful for everyone he has met so far and that “the professors are great, and the people are fun and kind.” The sense of community was a main factor as to why he chose to attend UML; one thing he wanted to find in college was a family, and the university has provided this for him.
As a junior in high school, Jon’s original plans were to play football in college, but a sports-related injury changed this. He turned his attention towards improving his career in his field events for track; doing so landed him the opportunity to continue track & field at the college level as a River Hawk athlete, which put UMass Lowell on his radar.
While he maintains a busy schedule between classes, his involvement with the RHSA, and being a D1 college athlete for the university’s track & field team, Jon has a clear vision as to what he will pursue post-graduation. His current goals are to graduate and one day own his own car dealership, in addition to helping homeless people. Growing up, his family ran into financial stresses, and he wants to be able to use his degree to help others by building them up and providing them with jobs and a new opportunity in life.
To Jon, being involved in the RHSA program has meant that he is able to be involved with a first-generation student community where everyone works with one another to get a “jump start on life.” He is thankful for the relationships he has built within the RHSA program, with both students and faculty of all age groups and backgrounds. He said that the ability to be a part of a community where “people respect you, mentor you, are honest with and and truly care for you” is exactly what he had hoped to find in a university.
When asked about what advice he has for others, Jon said that as a first-generation college student, he wished he had known to take more risks upon starting his freshmen year, and to “not be too secluded, branch out. Put yourself out there. Find what you like, and what you don’t; don’t worry about it!” He also shared that one should not be afraid to move out of their comfort zone and to “be outside the box, or inside, at the end of the day, just remember to be yourself” and to stay true to one’s morals.
Saburah Namata, Public HealthCongratulations to Saburah Namata, an October River Hawk Scholars Academy Student of the Month! Saburah is a Public Health major in the Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences from Boston, who also spent a few years of her life growing up in Uganda prior to moving back to the States. Her future goals involve becoming a physician’s assistant at an accredited hospital, and running her own small business.
Saburah’s hobbies include unwinding with activities such as watching Netflix, being creative through art, and listening to music. Saburah is mindful to practice self-care while on campus, and is also a part of other clubs such as the Black Student Union and ASAO.
Her favorite thing at UMass Lowell is the community she has found both inside and outside of the RHSA program. Saburah’s dedication to other organizations on campus has allowed her to “partake in heavy conversations,” which allow her to “leave every [club] meeting learning something new.” Saburah also mentioned how she enjoys her classes and loves the content taught within them. She is a part of an RHSA College Writing section and is grateful for the ability to take a class with other RHSA students. Whether it is the friends she has made within her RHSA group, or clubs on campus, she mentioned the importance of connecting with others, since “we all help build each other up.”
When asked about what advice she would give to others, Saburah said that “It is okay if things don’t go your way; everything is new, and it's okay to feel,” and go through the emotions involved in embarking on the new journey that is college. She also noted that “it is okay to ask for help and lean on others,” and to also put your best foot forward and “work hard for yourself, and not for others.”
Saburah chose to attend UMass Lowell because of the diverse campus community, in addition to it being the best fit for her financially. She said that compared to other Massachusetts public universities, something about UMass Lowell stood out to her. Being a first-generation college student, Saburah is aware of the challenges that come along with this responsibility, and has a great support system and community around her who are rooting for her success. The RHSA is excited to see her further progress in her college journey!
Dorys Rosa, Business (Accounting)
Haylee Patronick, Biology
Manel Hamoudi, Nursing
Grace Goodchild, Philosophy
Timothy Nguyen, Business
Congratulations to Timothy Nguyen for being a January River Hawk Scholars Academy Student of the Month! Timothy is studying Business with a concentration in Finance in the Manning School of Business. Timothy is from Lowell and loves the diversity in the Greater Lowell community as well as around campus. His hobbies include running for fun and being active, as well as watching movies on Netflix on his down-time to unwind.
When asked what his favorite thing about UMass Lowell is, Timothy expressed that he is very appreciative of all the resources the university has available to its students. From the various food places on and around campus, student centers, such as the Campus Rec Center, academic services through the Centers for Learning, and mental health resources, UMass Lowell has countless resources available to help support its students and guarantee student success.
When speaking of his future goals, Timothy shared that he wants to work within the field of business, and is open to other possibilities as well. When he was in high school, Timothy was involved with Lowell High School’s Business Professionals of America (BPA) Club, where he was inspired to consider potential careers in investing, banking, or financial services.
To Timothy, being involved with the RHSA has meant that he is a part of a community that has allowed him to “explore things further.” Upon arriving on campus, he shared that the program introduced him to many services and resources on campus, and that the ability to attend RHSA led events with other students within the program has allowed him to meet other first-generation college students, expand his social circles, and familiarize himself with all that the University has to offer.
When asked of the advice he had wished he’d known at the start of his freshmen year, Timothy shared that he wished someone had told him to not put too much pressure on himself, to not get swept up in being a perfectionist, and to accept defeat with grace. Being both a full-time student and a part-time employee, Timothy felt the stress of juggling multiple responsibilities, and this taught him the importance of time management as well. His advice to others would be to manage one’s time wisely, and know that regardless of what the outcome is, you’re trying your best and that is what matters most: “it’s easy to get distracted and sidetracked. Time management is an important skill, especially if you are involved on campus and are working.”
To Timothy, being a first-generation college student means that he is capable of overcoming challenges, exercising resiliency, and being a hardworking student. He is able to defy first-gen stereotypes and not let them define him and his abilities as a first-generation college student. He shared his thoughts on the matter saying that any first-generation student is able to accomplish whatever they set their mind to, so long they remain headstrong. The RHSA program is excited to see Timothy further his academic career and involvement on campus.
Rania Merbah, Nursing
Congratulations to Rania Merbah, a January River Hawk Scholars Academy Student of the Month! Rania is a nursing student within the Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences from Lynn, MA, and her hobbies include drawing nature and playing tennis in her free time.
When asked what her future goals were, Rania expressed that she plans to become a pediatric Nurse Practitioner. Growing up, she always knew that she wanted to work in a profession where she would be able to directly help others. In high school she was involved in many student-led clubs and organizations that were focused on building schools for others in different countries, and assisting those who were food insecure. For this reason, she was drawn to nursing and the ability to make a direct impact on the lives, health, and well being of others.
Iva Keo, Nursing
Congratulations to Iva Keo, a February River Hawk Scholars Academy Student of the Month! Iva is a first-year student studying Nursing from Lowell, and her hobbies include playing volleyball for the UMass Lowell’s women’s club volleyball team.
As a commuter student, Iva has found her home in the UMass Lowell community. When asked what her favorite thing about the university was, Iva shared that she enjoys the large variety of resources that are available to students. Being a Lowell native, she knew a lot about the university prior to her arrival on campus, but now as a student, she is able to see first-hand the countless resources made available to students, such as tutoring services and the Wellness Center.
Iva’s future goals include obtaining her Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing, and going on to pursue her license to become a Nurse Practitioner. Growing up, Iva experienced firsthand the pros and cons that come along with interacting with certain people in the health field as a bilingual person, and wants to be able to give back to her community and help care for others in the way she was cared for. Iva also mentioned being driven to work with kindness due to the kindness she received from certain health professionals, and wants to continue to reciprocate this to the patients she will one day be assisting.
When discussing her involvement with the RHSA and what it has meant to her, Iva expressed that being a part of a first-gen community has allowed her to find herself at the university. She shared that “as a commuter, I didn’t realize I’d have certain challenges that I encountered, but being involved with the program has helped guide me.” Iva also shared that she has made so many powerful friendships within the program, leading back to her summer involvement with the programs First to Launch Program where she connected with Peer Leaders in the program for the first time.
Iva shared that the advice she would give to her younger self would be the reassurance that it will all be okay in the end and that sometimes failing is a stepping stone in order to progress forward. She said that she wished someone had reminded her to not let grades limit her, because in the end it is a part of the process and everything will work out. Iva also shared that a piece of advice she would tell others is from them to not be afraid to ask for help: “your professors are there to help you and have office hours for a reason. They would not be here if they did not want to help you.”
As to why she chose UMass Lowell, Iva was drawn to the rigorous and respected Nursing program at the university, and knew that for her, attending a school that she could commute to would be the most financially sound option for her. To Iva, being a first-gen student means being resilient and giving back to her roots. She also shared that pursuing this degree allows her to give back to her mother who did everything to get her to where she is today. The River Hawk Scholars Academy is excited to see Iva continue her growth as a student on campus!
Rachel LaLumiere, Plastics Engineering
Congratulations to Rachel LaLumiere, a River Hawk Scholars Academy February Student of the Month! Rachel is from Chelmsford and is studying Plastics Engineering in the Francis College of Engineering. Her hobbies include hiking, ice skating, skiing, going to the beach, and playing various sports.
When asked about her favorite thing at UMass Lowell, she said it was the atmosphere: “You can always find people walking around when the weather's nice, sitting outside in the Adirondack chairs and hanging out in the hammocks.” She also described how she enjoys attending hockey games and how the student body takes pride in their River Hawk spirit.
When asked about her future goals, Rachel shared that intends to work for a company to make prosthetics and biodegradable medical devices. After pursuing this career, she hopes to one day open her own company, where her goal is to make affordable prosthetics for those who are in the market for one. Her goal is to partner with families to donate prosthetics to young children. She also shared that she would like to one day be able to design her own dream home and take part in the process of building it from the ground up.
When discussing what her involvement in the RHSA has meant to her, Rachel expressed that it has been crucial to her first-year success on campus. As a first-year student, she serves as the only freshman on the First-Gen Student Advisory Board on campus, where various students from across all colleges meet to talk about a variety of topics, including how to make UMass Lowell more inclusive to first-gen students. Rachel also shared that she participated in this semester’s spring leadership training, which helped her further develop her leadership skills as a rising leader on campus.
The advice Rachel would share with students prior to starting their degree at UMass Lowell is to not to overbook themselves. Coming to college is overwhelming, and wanting to experience and participate and everything is a must as a first-year, first-gen student, but she wished someone told her to make a schedule and stick to it, since pursuing many things can lead to overbooking oneself.;
Rachel also shared that a piece of advice she would share with others would be to get involved on campus because the university has a vast variety of opportunities for students to take part in, and that there’s bound to be something that appeals to one’s interests. She chose UMass Lowell because of the various opportunities the campus offers its students. From the support she has received from being involved with the RHSA, to the other resources she has taken part in, she is grateful for everyone she has interacted with. Rachel enjoys her classes as a Plastics Engineering student and was drawn to pursue this degree here due to the quality of the program.
For Rachel, being a first-generation student means accomplishing a family milestone. Being able to receive a Bachelor's degree means that she and her older siblings will be able to have access to more opportunities. She is working hard for both herself and for her family, and is driven to pursue this new path and alter the future of her family's history. The program is proud of all Rachel has accomplished so far at the university and is excited to see her continue to flourish as a student and leader!
Tori Fagundes, Criminal Justice & Spanish
Congratulations to Tori Fagundes, a February River Hawk Scholars Academy Student of the Month! Tori is double majoring in Criminal Justice and Spanish and is from Pepperell, MA. She has always enjoyed studying languages, which is what drew her to majoring in Spanish, and has found that she likes her Criminal Justices courses, which led her to declare two majors. Her future career goals include working for the federal government since she enjoys working with others and helping people.
During her interview, Tori expressed that her hobbies include Irish step dancing, participating in the Spanish Language Club on campus, and working. Tori is very involved on campus and active in the River Hawk Scholars Program. This past semester she participated in the program's leadership training opportunity, where she and a group of other River Hawk Scholars were able to participate in a series of leadership training. She was also involved in the First to Launch program prior this past summer.
When discussing what her River Hawk Scholars Academy involvement has meant to her, Tori shared that it has been extremely beneficial to her success as a first-gen, first-year college student. By participating in the program and utilizing all it has to offer its students, Tori found that she was better prepared at the start of her first semester, and was able to share the knowledge she learned about how to navigate college with her peers. Tori said that the events the program offers its students has allowed her to branch out, build new friendships, and utilize many resources on campus, such as the office of study abroad. Having attended an event about how to get started with studying abroad, Tori now plans to spend a semester in Spain during the upcoming academic year.
When asked what advice she wished someone had shared with her, Tori mentioned that she would have liked for someone to remind her that it is important to prioritize your studies, but it is even more important to prioritize yourself. Tori also shared that to her, being a first-gen student means working hard to fund her college education. She shared that she chose to attend UMass Lowell due to its affordability and diversity. She also mentioned that she is proud to be a first-gen student, regardless of all the challenges that come along with being one, and that support programs like the River Hawk Scholars Academy help bridge that gap. The program is excited to see Tori further her career here at UMass Lowell!
Jeffrey Danquah, Nursing
Congratulations to Jeffrey Danquah, a March River Hawk Scholars Academy Student of the Month! Jeffrey is a commuter student from Lowell who is studying Nursing here at the University. His hobbies include watching movies and listening to R&B, hip-hop, and rap music, as well as exploring new places around the University and the surrounding Lowell communities.
When expressing what his favorite thing about UMass Lowell is, Jeffrey shared that he appreciates how diverse the campus is and how much everyone cares for one another. He described the community of the campus as being very “down to earth” and “connected” for a university of its large size. He also said he was drawn to the strong and competitive Nursing program the university has. Jeffrey also shared that his career goals include becoming a Nurse Practitioner, although he is still exploring what specialty he would like to go into.
When describing what being involved in the River Hawk Scholars Academy meant to him, Jeffrey said that it means he is able to “get the specific support I need as a first-generation student.” Through this support, he noted that being involved in the RHSA has allowed him to automatically have a group of people who he can relate and connect with, as well as a caring group of students and staff who want to help its students succeed. He said that the program “is meaningful to me, and I treasure having it.”
Having experienced a semester and a half of University so far, Jeffrey shared that advice he would share with others would be to take more time to reflect on your challenges, whether they be academic or personal. He said that the first semester of college may feel rushed, especially since you are so focused on succeeding and making it, but remember to step back and reevaluate everything you are going through, and to not let life and experiences pass you.
Jeffrey shared that he chose UMass Lowell because it made the most sense to him as a commuter. Being a Lowell native, the location of the University in relation to his home was the best option for him financially. Jeffrey also said that to him, being a first-generation student means that he is in charge of paving his own path without any direct guidance. He described it as “driving on a road that’s not plowed,” and it is up to him to forge his own path, which may include some hiccups along the way. Although being a first-generation college student comes with a lot of pride and pressure, he described it as humbling him in a good way. Hard work pays off, and the River Hawk Scholars Academy is excited to see Jeffrey continue to progress and flourish within his program of study and as a student on campus.
Marc-Antoine Belmudes, Business
Congratulations to Marc-Antoine Belmudes, a River Hawk Scholars Academy March Student of the Month! Marc-Antoine is an international student from Bastia, Corsica who is studying Business with concentrations in finance and accounting. His hobbies include going to the gym, exploring new places, and trying new adventurous things.
When asked what his favorite thing about UMass Lowell is, Marc-Antoine shared that he loves that the university has a variety of opportunities and resources to help support students. He talked about how as a Business major, having resources such as the Career and Co-Op Center is vital in helping prepare him for his future career and post-graduation goals. He shared that his future goal is to potentially go back to Corsica and develop a company, with a focus on bettering community life and engagement there. Having been allowed the opportunity to study abroad, Marc-Antoine is driven by his dream of returning home and participating in efforts to make resources more accessible for everyone. He would also like to be involved in impacting the country's ecology and economy through developing housing that is environmentally friendly, and welcoming to tourists as well.
When describing what the RHSA program meant to him, Marc-Antoine shared that having a peer leader as a mentor has allowed him to unlock many resources and connections, while also providing support and guidance as he navigates the campus. Marc-Antoine also shared that advice he would give to others would be to focus on one’s long-term goals, not just the short-term ones. He expressed that in order to make it to where one wants to be, it is important to find what you’re good at, and to pursue that, regardless of what others do or say because at the end of the day, what truly matters is that you are passionate about what you do.
Marc-Antoine shared that he chose to attend UMass Lowell because of the strong Business program the Manning School of Business has, in addition to the University being the most financially sound option for him. Being an international student, Marc-Antoine has begun to find his place on campus and is eager to explore both Lowell, and Boston as well.
To Marc-Antoine, being a first-generation student means that he is able to be a trailblazer in his family, and start a legacy for both himself, siblings, and family to follow. He hopes that his decision to pursue a new opportunity in higher academia in the states will show other first-gen students that anything is possible if you work hard for it. The River Hawk Scholars Academy is proud of Marc-A
Jacob Breen, Computer Sciencejacob-breen
Congratulations to Jacob Breen, a March River Hawk Scholars Academy student of the month! Jacob is from Methuen and is studying Computer Science and minoring in Robotics. Jacob’s hobbies include listening to music and virtually anything related to robotics.
When Jacob described his favorite thing about UMass Lowell, he expressed that he loves how diverse the community is, sharing that “you meet people from different origins and upbringings wherever you go.” He also shared that he favors how, for its size, the university has both a large-campus feel, while also consisting of a close-knit community of students. He also mentioned that he loves the lively and scenic spots both on and around campus.
During his interview, Jacob shared that his future career goals include becoming a robotics engineer, with a programming-driven focus. He also expressed being open to exploring teaching robotics to others, potentially in the realm of secondary education. When asked of his RHSA involvement and what this has meant to him, Jacob shared that he is very appreciative to have a community where others understand the challenges that come along with being a first-generation college student and navigating the realm of higher education on one’s own. He also expressed his gratitude to having a support system like this to lean on and turn to for advice.
Jacob shared that the advice he would give to other students would be to explore your options before committing to your degree. He shared that many students come in not knowing what exactly they would like to do, which is okay, but it makes it even more important for them to do the extra work to get involved and explore their options, since there is bound to be a career path that suits their aspirations. He shared that trying new things is so important, as is approaching every opportunity with a positive and open mindset, since you can narrow your options down from there.
For Jacob, he chose to attend UMass Lowell because of the strong Computer Science program the university offers, in addition to the robotics program here. He also shared that, in relation to home, the University is the perfect distance for him to grow independently in a new setting, while also being located in an area he is familiar with. To him, being a first-generation student means that he can progress and accomplish things his parents were not given the opportunity to pursue, while also establishing a legacy and setting an example for himself and family. Jacob has accomplished so much in his time at UMass Lowell so far and the program is excited to see him continue to grow as an active member in the campus community!