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

Paige Magee, Nursing

Congratulations to Paige Magee, April RHSA Student of the Month! Paige is a Nursing major from Monroe Township, NJ. Paige is a dedicated student, hard worker and proud member of the UMass Lowell community. In her spare time Paige enjoys playing soccer, riding horses, and spending time outdoors. Hobbies that have been especially enjoyable during this past year. 
Over the course of the last year there is a lot about UML that Paige has grown to love. She has had the opportunity to meet and connect with a wide array of people and form friendships that she knows she’ll have long after her time at UML ends. Aside from the wonderful people, the environment on campus has been one of Paige’s favorite things at UMass Lowell. As Paige reflects on her first year at UML she realizes that she learned the value of balancing academics, work, and having fun. One major takeaway from her first year is that you have to “enjoy every minute of it, try very hard with school but also give yourself time to relax and enjoy time with family and friends.” Thinking about incoming students, Paige shares some advice based on lessons she learned this year. When it comes to taking classes online Paige advises students to leave their rooms and take classes in common spaces on campus or with their friends to ensure they are focusing.
Paige aspires to be a nurse anesthetist and ultimately open a nursing home that makes patient care the number one priority. She hopes to create a space where every resident feels as though they are at home and truly comfortable. She selected UML because they offer a nursing program that will help ensure she lives out these goals. Paige was particularly excited by the opportunities to do clinical rotations at top hospitals, and the option of completing her nursing degree in three and a half years. She feels that these features of UML’s nursing program will make her well positioned to succeed in the field. She is really satisfied with her choice and feels like UML has been a great fit! 
Paige has also found a great fit within the RHSA. Through her involvement with the RHSA Paige has gained new skills, knowledge, and connections. Paige shares that the RHSA, “taught me a lot about myself in terms of leadership and how everyone comes from totally different places with different challenges. It has also taught me to ask for help when I need it and not be ashamed or nervous.” She also was able to get support from her RHSA Peer Leader and thinks that was able to help her in significant ways throughout the year. As a first generation college student Paige is excited to be making her parents proud and paving the way for future opportunities by going to college. She is grateful for all the supporters she has in her life, especially her family and the RHSA, as these people have helped keep her on track and succeed this year.
Luis Maldonado Rezendes on the beach

Luis Maldonado Rezendes, Business

Congratulations to Luis Maldonado Rezendes, March RHSA Student of the Month! Luis is a Business major with a concentration in Management Information Systems. During his free time, he enjoys hanging out with friends. Due to the pandemic and having to be in quarantine he hasn't been able to see his friends in quite some time, however, he hopes that will quickly change. The pandemic has been difficult to go through especially when you are a social butterfly like Luis. It has restricted him and prevented him from showcasing his true personality. However, things are starting to look better, and he hopes it remains that way.
Due to the switch to a virtual setting, it has forced people to become more reserved and human connection has slipped away from us. Although that may be the case, it hasn't stopped Luis from connecting to his professors. He has found that the faculty and staff at UMass Lowell have been crucial to his academic success. He says that they "genuinely care about my success and they are understanding of everyone's circumstances including mine." 
To Luis, the RHSA has meant "getting extra guidance and being in a community with people from similar backgrounds.” He knows that he is not alone and that there are students just like him going down a similar path. It is comforting knowing that in every direction he looks, he is always going to see someone he can count on. 
Jessica Tran

Jessica Tran, Business

Congratulations to Jessica Tran, March RHSA Student of the Month! Jessica is a Business major with a concentration in Entrepreneurship and a minor in Graphic Design.  During her free time, Jessica likes to take up a couple of things like playing volleyball, exercising, event planning, and reading. Although they are all very diverse activities, they are all activities she enjoys doing for fun and they also tend to peak a bit of interest for her as she further discovers who she is and what she wants to do in her future. There is a vast future ahead of her and she wants to ensure that she dibbles and dabbles in a bit of everything during her journey getting there. 
Speaking of her future, Jessica has high hopes and dreams about becoming a successful entrepreneur one day. She goes on to say, "I aspire to run my own fashion or beauty business later in my college career or after I graduate."  Alongside her dream of owning a business, she wants to travel to places such as California, Vietnam, Tokyo, Italy, France, and more. She hopes that traveling will inspire her creativity and allow her to showcase her experiences in her work.  Although she has big aspirations, it doesn't keep her from wanting to help others, especially the less fortunate. She is aware that the world's top income holders make up most of the economy's money while people at the bottom struggle to put food on the table. She hopes to one day give back and show that not everyone who makes money forgets about others. 
Being involved in the RHSA has been an experience that Jessica is grateful for. She explains that “the events offered to RHSA students are well developed and I can see how much time and effort goes into planning them." Jessica has been able to gain useful lessons from the events while still being provided countless resources. She loves that everyone within the community is willing to help each other out and she has even been able to make new friends through the program. She expresses "I am so grateful to be exposed to such a supportive and caring environment that I know is not present in other schools." 
Now that we've reached the end of the semester, Jessica has had time to reflect on her freshman experience and advises students "to be patient and understanding of others. That does not mean let their mistakes slide but rather try and see through their eyes and perspective."
Aurora Leal

Aurora Leal, Sociology

Congratulations to Aurora Leal, March RHSA Student of the Month! Aurora is a Sociology major from Dublin, California; however, she currently resides in Massachusetts. She has chosen to study Sociology for the fact that she enjoys helping others. When speaking to her advisor on what would be the right choice for her, they both settled on Sociology or her desire to help people through difficult times and want to bring them justice. She hopes to one day become a social worker or even a high school counselor. She is very aware of the struggles that students face while they are in high school and they are not always connected to their academic career. She wants to be an outlet for those kids and show them that someone is willing to listen and be there to help. Besides working on her future, Aurora loves to read fiction novels as well as binge-watch tv. She finds it important to always take a bit of time out for herself rather than overworking and causing more stress in her life. 
This past school year has been one that is significantly different from others in the past. This virtual setting has been difficult for many students however, Aurora has still found something to love about the university: the faculty and staff. They have been extremely supportive during these times and she finds that they are "genuinely encouraging and want you to succeed”. She doesn't feel like she is alone during this process and her professors have been understanding at all times and they go out of their way to ensure that she has everything necessary to be a successful student. Without their help, the school year would have been a lot more difficult than it already is and she can't thank them enough for what they have done. 
While in college people must find communities or friends that are there as a support system. College is not a linear experience and things do not always occur in the order that one may expect them to. Having a community of friends to be there during those times will always make the situation a whole lot better. That is what the RHSA is for her. She explains that "the RHSA has allowed me to meet new people which was especially helpful during the pandemic. It forced me to engage with other people which I sometimes struggle with." The RHSA allowed her to break out of her shell a bit and provided her the opportunity to socialize with others even if it was just through Zoom. 
Looking back on her freshman and year, Aurora has had some time to reflect and she offers a bit of advice to fellow students. She advises students "to not be so hard on themselves and expect everything you do to be 100% perfect." She advises students to take their time with things and to just enjoy the process. Everyone is bound to make mistakes and as long as you learn from them, that is all that should matter. College is an experience and a moment in life that everyone should enjoy and if you are too focused on being the perfect student, you are going to miss out on once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
Al-Amin Muhammad

Al-Amin Muhammad, Computer Science

Congratulations to Al-Amin Muhammad, February RHSA Student of the Month! Al-Amin is a Computer Science major. He is originally from Washington, D.C. and decided to attend a college in Massachusetts because he wanted to experience a new environment and believed his college years would be the perfect time to do so. He had always hoped to visit Boston and with the city of Lowell being so close, he now has the opportunity, especially since he is currently living on campus. For leisure time, Al-Amin enjoys writing in a journal occasionally. He finds free writing as a way of sharpening his skills as well as freeing his mind. Over time, teachers always expressed to him the importance of writing and he is now taking it up and considers it a new hobby. Besides writing he also enjoys reading, playing sports and playing video games. They are a great way to decompress and practice self-care. During a time where society pressures individuals to constantly work and be on the grind, it is also important to take time for himself and enjoy a bit of time off. 
During his time on campus, he has grown to appreciate many things that UMass Lowell has to offer. What has stood out the most to Al-Amin would be the diversity of students on campus. Being Muslim and surrounded by mostly minorities all his life, the environment has been a bit of a culture shock to say the least. He enjoys meeting new people and learning about their background as well as what they hope to do in the future. This entire experience has enabled him to look beyond himself and appreciate people for who they are and not what they are. UMass Lowell has been an amazing experience so far and he can’t wait to see what the future holds. 
As a first-generation college student Al-Amin understands the importance of a college degree and what that means for his family and their future. His parents were able to earn a college education in a different country and for him to continue the family legacy means a lot to him. Al-Amin goes on to say that “my family wants me to do my best, and that is what I am here to do.”  His family wants him to do all that he can do while enjoying the process.  It is all one can do and he is proud to say he is doing just that.
With his freshman year quickly coming to an end, he has a lot of advice to offer, especially to first-generation students who are entering college for the first time. Al-Amin expresses that students “are not alone and the RHSA is a family that is around to support you. Students should never hinder themselves and should feel free to meet new people while socializing.” Your four years at college should be exciting and knowledgeable at the same time. 
Isabella De Souza

Isabella De Souza, Nursing

Congratulations to Isabella De Souza, February RHSA Student of the Month! Isabella is a Nursing major from Milford, Massachusetts. She decided to major in Nursing because she knew that she always wanted to be in Medical school and Nursing guarantees that she will have a job once she graduates. She also has the opportunity to head off to Medical school or become a Nurse Practitioner. There are so many directions she can move in with a Nursing degree and she loves the variety that the degree presents. She also minors in Spanish and hopes to improve her skills over the next couple of years. Her decision to minor in Spanish stems from wanting to be an advocate for the Spanish community and being able to translate for them. It is no secret that those who face a language barrier are neglected by the American healthcare system and Isabella wants to be able to make the American healthcare system more accessible to those who don’t speak English by learning to speak Spanish. As a Brazilian it is important that she can help patients who don’t know the English language to feel comfortable. She hopes to one day study abroad in South America and further develop her Spanish speaking skills. To her it is more than knowing the language, it is about knowing the dialect and the different Spanish cultures. 
Similar to other students, Isabella is appreciative of the many different resources that UMass Lowell offers its students. Isabella enjoys connecting with the Writing Center because they are always so eager to help her and solve an issue she may be encountering. She has never thought of herself as a strong writer and having the Writing Center has made a significant difference in her success during freshman year. She is also thankful for the supportive staff and faculty on campus as well. They have been so kind throughout the entire virtual shift and have offered multiple opportunities for her to grow and develop as a student. Isabella advises students to “take advantage of the opportunities provided and to utilize them in any way they can.” If you want to be successful you have to take an offering hand. It will only help you, not hinder you. 
With her freshman year quickly approaching the end, she has been able to reflect on it and is now able to offer advice to other students, especially high school students who will be entering college soon. Isabella wants students to remain calm and know that everything works itself out in the end. She also wants students “to not get involved in everything instantly because it can be overwhelming, but to slowly take on more responsibility once you learn how to better manage your time.” Having multiple things going on simultaneously can become overwhelming and will lead to students not being able to fully commit to anything. Students should focus on pacing themselves and slowly join clubs and organizations once they’ve been able to adapt to their schedule. 
As a first-generation student Isabella is aware that she is on a different journey compared to other college students. To her being a first-generation student means that she is making her parents proud and all of their sacrifices were worth it. Her parents immigrated to the U.S to build a greater life and provide better opportunities for their daughter. Getting a degree would be her way of thanking them. She still has a long way to go but the journey will be a fun one. 
Jamie-Lyn Cavallon

Jamie-Lyn Cavallon, Meteorology

Congratulations to Jamie-Lyn Cavallon, February RHSA Student of the Month! Jamie-Lyn is a Meteorology major from Agawam, Massachusetts. Jamie-Lyn had originally hoped that she would study to be a veterinarian but didn't realize how much of a financial commitment that would be in the long-run. She quickly switched her gears and decided to study Meteorology. As a young girl, she was always interested in the weather and all that it encompasses. As she continues on this journey, she hopes to one day work for the Weather Channel Network. It’s a goal of hers and she continues to work hard to reach it. During downtime Jamie-Lyn enjoys dancing and taking part in baton twirling. She began dancing about 14 years ago where she would take part in nation-wide competitions up until her junior year in high school when she retired. Although she no longer competes, she still enjoys dancing for fun and just to remain active. 
As Jamie-Lyn finishes up her freshman year here at UMass Lowell, she has learned to appreciate various things about the university and the system it has created. She is thankful for the fact that UML has multiple opportunities in terms of joining a club. There are so many options to choose from despite the fact that everything has transitioned into a virtual setting. Jamie-Lyn expresses that “clubs have helped me deal with not being able to see people in person.” The various clubs on campus have helped her become a part of multiple communities on campus and has kept her from feeling isolated which has been the most important result. 
College can be a world filled with endless opportunities, but it can also be a place where many feel misunderstood or they feel as if they can’t relate to anyone else. Fortunately, while being a part of the RHSA, Jamie-Lyn felt instant support and feels that those who surround her come from a similar background. The support of the RHSA “has helped in terms of completing the FAFSA and providing opportunities for multiple different scholarships. It’s exciting knowing that there is support while on this college journey.” For Jamie-Lyn there is comfort knowing that there is an entire community that is mainly focused on getting her through college and assisting her in anything that she might possibly need help with. It is peaceful knowing that there is always someone to pick you up when you fall.
This time of year is always a good time to reflect on past accomplishments and on things you want to do in the near future. As the semester is quickly coming to an end Jamie-Lyn is able to reflect on her freshman year and offer advice to other students.  She urges students to step outside their comfort zone and speak up. She explains that students should not be afraid to ask questions, especially if it offers more clarity. Everyone is on the same boat and by asking a question you can possibly be helping other students as well. Everyone is striving to be successful throughout their years in college therefore, no one should feel intimidated when asking for help whether it’s a professor or another student. 
Michelle Brempong

Michelle Brempong, Psychology

Congratulations to Michelle Brempong, February RHSA Student of the Month! Michelle is a Psychology major on the Pre-Med track. She decided to study Psychology while still in high school. She developed a love for it while taking Psychology as an elective during her junior year in high school. She was doing really well in the class and it turned out to be her highest grade out of all of the courses she was taking at the time. From that point on she made the decision to take it a step farther and actually major in it once she got to college. Michelle chose to go on the Pre-Med track because she gained an interest in medicine, but she also didn’t want to switch her major. Pre-Med would allow her to study the two things she loves without having to choose one over the other. During her leisure time Michelle enjoys singing. She’s been singing since she was a young girl, and it is the only hobby she loves to do. She grew up in her church choir and enjoys creating videos of herself harmonizing. She currently listens to Afro-beat music as well as Gospel music. From time to time, she will listen to main-stream music, but Afro-beats music is her main focus. 
There are so many reasons why UMass Lowell is loved by several people. For Michelle she has grown to love and appreciate the multiple resources that the university has to offer. She was able to learn about different resources through her Freshman Seminar class and she was amazed by the variety of assets that are provided on campus. She explains that “by a click of a button on the UMass Lowell website, you will find everything you are looking for.”  Michelle has never considered herself a strong writer and having the Writing Center available to all students enabled her to develop her skills and feel more confident in her writing capabilities. Due to the virtual setting that a majority of students are in, it is difficult for them to discover all of the resources that they have access to. Michelle is grateful towards her advisor and Peer Leader for making her aware of them. It has made a huge difference academically. 
Everyone is always searching for the place that makes them feel comfortable. A place that they feel they will always belong to. The RHSA is that place for Michelle! She loves that the RHSA is filled with students and staff that she can relate to. It makes her feel safe knowing that there are people she can reach out to including her Peer Leader and other Team Leaders. When Michelle first joined the organization, she wasn’t sure what she had gotten herself into but, she can proudly say that she does not regret her decision. She believes that the “RHSA is a great program and all freshmen who are first-generation students should join.” It’s an opportunity to grow as an individual and meet inspiring people along the way. 
The term first-generation student can mean multiple things to different people. To Michelle it means doing what her mother didn’t have the opportunity to do. One thing Michelle loves to do is making her mother proud. She is aware that going away for college and gaining a degree will be worth it, especially when she gets to see a smile on her mother’s face. Her mother has sacrificed a lot for her, and she wants to show that it was all an investment for a better life. 

Michelle Voong, Graphic Design

Congratulations to Michelle Voong, December RHSA Student of the Month! Michelle is a Graphic Design major who has always relished the arts. Her love for art began in middle school when she learned Pottery. The love for art then developed in high school where she took advanced art classes and learned ceramics. She was highly loved by all art teachers and was well known for her artistic capabilities. Besides art, she also enjoys watching movies. She finds it as a great way to relax and escape reality. Movies give people the opportunity to live vicariously through the characters and that’s what she enjoys most. It is almost as if you are living a second life for about 2 hours. She believes it is a great way to relax the mind.
As Michelle continues her journey throughout college, she finds herself appreciating all of the opportunities and resources that UMass Lowell has to offer. What she loves most about the university are the staff and the diverse group of students. She is thankful that she attends a college where the staff is attentive and always wants the best for her. Michelle’s main reason for choosing UMass Lowell as her number one choice was for the representation of the Asian community among the staff. Throughout her academic journey, she had never experienced having an Asian teacher or professor. It became clear to Michelle that the university is “very accepting of minorities and does a good job of ensuring that the staff is a representation of the student body on campus.” As a result, it causes her to feel a lot more comfortable in who she is and in the impact she can have on both the art department and the university as a whole. 
The future is always in mind and for college students, it is something that is brought up a lot in regular conversations. For Michelle, her future career and what she hopes to do with her degree is always on her mind. As a first-generation college student, it is no longer about her success, but rather about being the pillar of her family and the person her loved ones look towards and depend on. Michelle is well aware of the fact that having a career in the arts is risky but, she is confident in her capabilities and knows that with the support she will be successful and will make her family proud. She plans on one day taking her family on a trip to Japan and finally providing the lifestyle that her parents have dreamed of. With life, risks are always necessary and Michelle feels that her passion and love for art will always be her main motivator and her reason for success.  
Being the first at anything in life is both a blessing and a hardship at the same time. On one end of the spectrum, you are paving the way for those who follow in your footsteps; however, you also feel the pressure and the fear of disappointment. This is the feeling that all first-generation college students go through, and Michelle is on the same boat with them. Michelle explains that being first-generation is all about “being a motivated student who has the ambition to make a difference.” It's all about starting a new path that those behind you can follow. She wants to make her family proud and wants to make all of their sacrifices worth it. There are definitely fears and moments of doubt while embarking on the voyage, but it is all about believing in yourself and having the right support system along the way. 
Charles Undag

Charles Undag, Computer Science

Congratulations to Charles Undag, December RHSA Student of the Month! Charles is a Computer Science major from Somerville, MA. He is passionate about skiing and travelling. Over the years he has been able to travel to various states within the U.S such as Florida, Texas, California, and Nevada. Outside of the country, he has been able to visit Canada and Aruba. Prior to the pandemic, he and his family had hopes of traveling to Portugal and Italy, but unfortunately those plans were postponed to another time. Traveling is something that Charles truly enjoys, and he hopes to visit even more amazing places once he graduates. Until then, he is focused on completing a life-long goal which is earning a degree and making his family proud.
When deciding on the university he wanted to attend, UMass Lowell was number one for many reasons. The main reason being the diversity on campus. Diversity is important to Charles because growing up he always surrounded himself with a diverse group of friends. He finds that when you surround yourself with different people “you can encounter different personalities, cultures, and experiences that add value to life.” 
Whenever you ask an individual what has led to their success, they never fail to mention the tremendous support that has pushed them to be great. For Charles, he says that the RHSA’s constant support and guidance throughout his freshman year in college has meant a lot to him. Being able to depend on his Peer Leader and the RHSA staff has allowed him to feel less pressure and more secure. He knows that he isn’t alone, and he is grateful for the warm feeling of welcome. The RHSA is the one place where he feels understood and more importantly is able to relate to others who are on a similar journey. 
Looking back at his experience as a freshman in college, Charles advises students to dig deep in their faith and trust in God. He goes on to explain that “over the past year, God has presented amazing things and has given me many blessings.” His faith has gotten him through treacherous times and he advises those who believe in God or in a higher power to have faith and trust that there is a plan for their life.
Kawtar Abouyoussef, November RHSA Student of the Month. Kawtar is a Music Studies major from Quincy, Massachusetts.

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, November RHSA Student of the Month! Salma is a Business Administration major with a concentration in Finance. She resides in Methuen, Massachusetts.

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, November Student of the Month! Arthur is a Computer Science major from Everett, Massachusetts.

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

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

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

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

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 Cedeno

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

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.


Alexa Inoa is a freshmen Business Management major at UMass Lowell and the January Student of the Month in the River Hawks Scholar Academy.

Alexa Inoa, Business Management inoa

Congratulations to January Student of the Month Alexa Inoa! Alexa is a Business Management major. She was born in the Dominican Republic and currently lives in Lawrence. In her spare time, she enjoys playing volleyball and having fun with friends. She would like to be an influencer of some kind in the future. Alexa is involved in the UMass Lowell Inquiry Scholars program, RHSA’s Student-Led Focus Group initiative.

Alexa wanted to attend UMass Lowell since she was in high school. The university provided her with a great offer and she felt it was the one for her. Her favorite thing about UMass Lowell is the diversity, not only of the people, but of the activities and courses offered. The range of offerings is not too narrow, and there are always lots of things to do. Being involved in the RHSA has meant that Alexa has a support system that will be with her throughout college. She does not feel like she is by herself, and feels that she belongs to a group of individuals that care about each other and care for her.

Jacob Villeneuve is a freshman Electrical Engineering major at UMass Lowell and the January Student of the Month in the River Hawks Scholar Academy.

Jacob Villeneuve, Electrical Engineering villeneuve

Congratulations to January Student of the Month Jacob Villeneuve! Jacob is an Electrical Engineering major with a minor in Sound Recording Technology from Clinton, MA. He is a member of Air Force ROTC and throws javelin for the club track and field team. Eventually, he would like to commission as an officer in the Air Force and use his degree to work as an Electrical Engineer.

From the first time that Jacob stepped onto campus, he knew that UMass Lowell was right for him. Everyone was extremely welcoming, and his tour guide was excited to be there and talk about the campus. He likes that he can drive home fairly easily if he wants to, and that there are a number of different ways to be involved on campus. While he sought out ROTC, he came across the track and field club team by chance. For him, RHSA has been an opportunity to meet other students who are from a similar background. A lot of the people he has met through RHSA have families with the same values his has: working hard to put their children through college and give them the opportunities they didn’t have. He also says that RHSA involves first year students in something, even if they’re not necessarily outgoing. He likes how accessible the Peer Leaders and RHSA Professional Staff are as well.

As a first generation student, Jacob is extremely proud to be at UMass Lowell. He has a sister who is a few years older than he is who also is in school, and it reminds him that they both have the opportunity to do what their parents didn’t get a chance to do. Being here is very rewarding, and he knows he will complete his degree and make his parents proud. Once he has a successful career, he wants to be able to be a solid foundation for his children and give back to the university and city of Lowell, which will have given him the tools he needs to be successful.

Shakira Fedna

Shakira Fedna, Biology fedna

Congratulations to December Student of the Month Shakira Fedna! Shakira is a biology major on the Pre-Med track from Everett, Mass. She eventually would like to become a doctor in either pediatrics or dermatology. On campus, Shakira is an active RHSA member and is in the process of starting a new dance team called Destiny of Dance, which will begin running in the spring semester. It will focus on cultural dance (Latin, Afro-Caribbean, etc.). She also enjoys reading.

Shakira actually chose UMass Lowell because of the RHSA. When she was going through a list of schools to which she had applied, she noticed UML was the only place that offered a program to support her as a first-gen student. She saw that she could fit in here, and that it was the perfect distance from home. To her, involvement in the RHSA means having that support system and community on campus. These supports are her favorite thing about the university; on this, she says, “You can always find support as long as you’re reaching out and looking for it.”

To Shakira, being a first generation college student means that she is setting forth the precedent for success. She wants to become the foundation of future generations’ success to allow the family to succeed.

Jeremy Duford

Jeremy Duford, Nutritional Science duford

Congratulations to December Student of the Month Jeremy Duford! Jeremy is a Nutritional Sciences major from Salisbury, Mass. In his spare time, Jeremy likes going to the gym and spending time with friends. He makes a concerted effort to keep his schoolwork and relaxation time separate.

Jeremy chose to attend UMass Lowell because it was local and he had never heard a bad thing about it. Many of his parents’ friends and friends’ parents attended UMass Lowell, as well as his sister. Jeremy’s favorite thing about UMass Lowell is “the comfortable, friendly environment that is so open and welcoming.” He says that everything he ever needs already exists and is available to him, and that all of his professors are very oriented toward student success. When he came to UMass Lowell, he thought living away from home would be a big transition, but he feels at home here and doesn’t go without anything.

To Jeremy, being a first gen student means that he gets to make his parents proud. Neither of them were able to pursue four year college degrees (though his grandparents did go to college), and his mom was able to get her Associate’s degree while he was growing up. Seeing her get her degree while raising a family motivated him to go to college right out of high school so that he can be with his family when he gets older. In the future, he would like to become a research nutritionist. He wants to be able to help those who have helped him along his path, and says that he “wouldn’t really be who [he is] today without the overwhelming support [he’s] received from peers, family, friends, current and old teachers.”

Being involved in the RHSA means that Jeremy always has a family to fall back on. He has already made a number of very good friends from the RHSA that he met on Welcome Day. He says he always has people to talk to, including his Peer Leader Ana, who always answers any questions he has and is encouraging. This support makes him want to work harder and he knows that even if he fails, there’s something for him to fall back on. He still meets other RHSA students at UMass Lowell that he has not yet met, and is immediately able to bond over the fact that they’re both part of the Academy. He is also in an RHSA college writing class, which he speaks highly of. RHSA is something Jeremy values and it has greatly added to his college experience thus far.

Rebecca Zhou

Rebecca Zhou, Business Administration: Entrepreneurship zhou

Congratulations to Rebecca Zhou! Rebecca is an Entrepreneurship major from San Francisco, Calif. In her short time at UMass Lowell, Rebecca has gotten extremely involved. She was able to have lunch with Chancellor Moloney at the beginning of the semester, has joined the Entrepreneurial Ventures Association (EVA), and has been actively involved in RHSA events and activities. In her spare time, she likes reading, listening to music, and playing Xiangqi (Chinese chess).

Rebecca came to UMass Lowell because she wanted a challenge. She’s far from home, but is looking forward to the New England winter (she says the weather in California is always the same). She loves the support she’s found at UMass Lowell, especially from RHSA. Being a first generation college student means that Rebecca’s family has high expectations for her. She also knows that she has the power in her hands to shape not only the meaning of her future work, but also that she can help the people in her life see success on her terms.

Vanessa Bazile

bazileVanessa Bazile, English

Congratulations to Vanessa Bazile, November RHSA student of the month! Vanessa is an English major with a concentration in Journalism and Professional Writing. Eventually, she would like to work in TV or write for a big company, magazine, or newspaper. She is from Hyde Park (a smaller town in Boston), and enjoys writing, traveling, and meeting new people.

Vanessa’s favorite thing about UMass Lowell? “The amount of people there are that are willing to really help you. Anything you ask of anyone, you will most likely get help. Nobody will ever really turn you away.” She says that this supportive and friendly community were very helpful when she was entering UMass Lowell and didn’t know anyone. On this, she says, “you begin to feel very comfortable quickly because UMass Lowell is really one big family.”

Being involved in the RHSA has meant a great deal to Vanessa. On this, she says, “I got to meet people with similar stories. … I quickly got very comfortable with sharing my experiences with the people in my group because we could all relate to each other in some way, shape, or form. It also means that I am given an opportunity to make something of myself for not only me, but for my family as well.”

Vanessa’s parents have completed college, but only recently. She remembers attending her mother’s lectures at UMass Boston as a child, and her father recently graduated from DeVry University with a degree in Business. She says that while she had a little bit of help with the college process, she had to complete a lot of things on her own. She wants to be able to provide for her parents the way they’ve provided for her, and wants to be able to succeed.

Tyson Minor next to tree

tysonTyson Minor, Business Administration

Congratulations to Tyson Minor, who is a November 2019 RHSA Student of the Month. Tyson is a Business Administration major with a concentration in Finance. He is from Washington, D.C. and is also a DC-CAP Scholar. Overall, he wants to be successful by following what he likes to do and be able to provide for his family and himself. In his spare time, Tyson likes to play basketball, go to the gym, and play sports video games.

Tyson’s favorite parts about UMass Lowell are the opportunities available. He likes that students here can pave their own way and get settled in the way that’s best for them. Students are encouraged to be their own people and are encouraged to be leaders, as well. He also likes that UMass Lowell encourages students to learn about the things they are interested in, and encourage students to do so much more than just get a degree. Tyson also says that he’s “met just the right amount of people to make it seem like [he’s] on the right path, people like Professor [Ralph] Jordan.” He says that his faculty and people he’s met on campus are nurturing and caring, and a lot of people need that.

What has being involved with the RHSA meant to Tyson? He says it has been a valuable resource that exposes students to different experiences that they might not normally participate in, but are helpful in helping them branch out. He especially appreciates the opportunities to get out of his comfort zone and attend events that RHSA puts on.

Tyson doesn’t really know how he feels about being a first generation college student. He has had older cousins go to college, but his immediate family has not and he did not think he’d have the chance to go to college. Most people in his family graduated from high school and immediately went to work. While he knew going to college was always a possibility, he never saw himself going. He says that the lack of pressure from his family to go to college was even less of a reason to go, but he was able to get a scholarship to UMass Lowell and decided to commit, among several different schools. 

When he graduates in four years, Tyson says he’ll look at himself from a different point of view: He will be able to reflect and look at where he came from and where he is then. He says he is at UMass Lowell for the opportunity to study, not the degree itself. On this topic, he says, “When you’re a first gen student, anything you get after stepping onto a college campus is a blessing and an opportunity. There’s nothing I can lose at this point, everything I do is for the better.”

Fahad Anwar standing on street

anwarFahad Anwar, Computer Engineering

Congratulations to November 2019 RHSA Student of the Month Fahad Anwar. Fahad is a commuter student from Boston, majoring in Computer Engineering. In his spare time, he enjoys running and spending time with his friends. Fahad decided to come to UMass Lowell because he loved the community the university was able to provide and how friendly everyone was when he visited the campus.

Fahad’s favorite thing about UMass Lowell? The support network he has here. He says that “everyone is willing to help each other when it comes to homework, projects, or just hanging out… everyone is there for each other.” He also says that being part of RHSA has shaped his experience at UMass Lowell. The RHSA allows him to relate to a group of people who will be there for him if he needs anything. He says it also has given him opportunities to learn things outside of his academic pathway, like putting on a Personal Finance Workshop or letting students attend the RHSA Hockey Night together.

Fahad wants to find a career that he is passionate about, and one where it doesn’t feel like a chore to have to go to work. He is a first generation college student, and says that that puts the onus of responsibility on him to a much higher degree than that of his continuing-generation peers. Not only is he going through a new experience himself, his parents are also going through the experience for the first time. He has had to be highly independent throughout the college process, from applying to financial aid.

Fahad is happy to be here. He also says, “I’m happy to be part of RHSA and I’m happy for what the RHSA program does and what it has contributed to the UMass Lowell freshmen. I’m excited to continue my journey both with RHSA and UMass Lowell.”

Edgardo Paz Juarez is a first-generation student majoring in Civil Engineering from Washington, D.C. He enjoys playing both music (piano, guitar, bass, and drums: he’s the whole band!) and soccer. He wants to pursue construction management.

juarezEdgardo Paz Juarez, Civil Engineering

Edgardo is a first-generation student majoring in Civil Engineering from Washington, D.C. He enjoys playing both music (piano, guitar, bass, and drums: he’s the whole band!) and soccer. He wants to pursue construction management and have a job that he enjoys doing. Being involved in the RHSA has meant a sense of community to Edgardo: “It’s nice to meet other students with the same path (and maybe background) as you, it’s nice to share and see people who are really trying.” The RHSA community provides a place for him to feel supported and motivated. Being around others with similar experiences motivates him to be a better person and student. He also says that the RHSA contains a lot of individuals who help each other to accomplish their goals.

Edgardo’s favorite thing about UMass Lowell is the wide range and number of opportunities for students. There are a number of doors that are open to students at the university, and Edgardo says he wants to take advantage of those open doors. Further, he says that he likes how much the people here care about the students and what they are going to do after they graduate. He is a first-generation college student who also participates in a program that allows a group of students from Washington, D.C. to attend UMass Lowell. This programmatic partnership, including the ability to attend a university far from home with a group of people he already knew, pushed him to attend UMass Lowell.

Being a first generation student is an honor to Edgardo. He is the first one in his family to ever go to college, which is something that motivates him to become a better student. He wants to make his family’s emigration from Mexico worth it, and he thanks God for the opportunities he’s being given. This opportunity may let him be the one to bring the family a sense of stability. Overall, he is happy to be here.

Grace Truong is a nursing major with a minor in public health from North Andover, MA. She enjoys photography, writing poetry, and playing with her dog. Her favorite thing about UML is the supportive campus: in high school, it didn’t feel like everyone supported each other, but here, everyone wants each other to succeed. She also likes the fact that everything on campus is close and accessible and that the university really feels like a community, rather than just a place to learn.

truongGrace Truong, Nursing

Grace Truong is a nursing major with a minor in public health from North Andover, Mass. She enjoys photography, writing poetry, and playing with her dog. Her favorite thing about UMass Lowell is the supportive campus: in high school, it didn’t feel like everyone supported each other, but here, everyone wants each other to succeed. She also likes the fact that everything on campus is close and accessible and that the university really feels like a community, rather than just a place to learn.

In the future, Grace would like to graduate and buy her parents a house. She would like to become a nurse either in the military or a midwife; she hasn’t quite decided yet. To her, being involved in RHSA means that she has a community that supports her, but one which she can also support. Grace doesn’t feel alone because of RHSA; while everything around her is very new, her peer leader and the RHSA team support her personally.

Being a first-generation college student means a lot to Grace. Her and her family value education strongly. She has opportunities her parents didn’t get, but they were able to provide her with by emigrating to the United States from Vietnam. Grace wants to be able to create a better life for her and her family too via her own education.

rowlesKayla Rowles, Business Administration

Congratulations to Kayla Rowles, an April 2020 Student of the Month! Kayla is majoring in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing. She is from Washington D.C. and enjoys listening to music and taking photographs. Kayla says that UML is the size and has a similar student population to that which she’s always wanted, because she gets to meet new people every day and make new connections frequently. Although Kayla is not quite sure about her future goals, she still strives to make an impact on her community by giving back. She plans to continue doing this through both her career and spare time.

Kayla is happy to be a part of RHSA because it has allowed her to grow personally and as a student. With the various events she has attended, she has been surrounded by like-minded individuals that have pushed Kayla to improve upon herself and schoolwork. Looking back to freshman year, Kayla would’ve done things differently. She would have told herself to stress a little less and to use her planner more often because sometimes she found herself rushing to complete an assignment as a result of feeling overwhelmed with the amount of work she had.

Kayla chose UMass Lowell because of a DC-CAP program she was in back home. But once she visited campus, she liked the size of the campus, resources the school provided, and how different the environment was compared to back home. Kayla’s advice to her peers is to always believe in yourself and put your best foot forward with everything you do.

Dejonai Willis, April RHSA student of the month at UMass Lowell poses outside.

willisDejonai Willis, Psychology

Congratulations to Dejonai Willis! Dejonai is from Haverhill, Massachusetts and is currently majoring in psychology. Throughout her spare time, she enjoys to swim, read, and hang out with friends. She loves the people at UMass Lowell because they’re very friendly and welcoming which made her journey of transitioning to college much easier. Dejonai is working hard at UML to accomplish her future goal of becoming one of the best prison reform lawyers and have her own law firm, as well as an animal shelter.

With the support provided by RHSA, Dejonai has become more outgoing which has helped her develop her character not only externally, but also internally. The RHSA has been the backbone for her freshman year and her family away from home. Although Dejonai had a successful transition to college, she wishes that she had more fun and didn’t go so hard on herself throughout freshman year. She recommends to everyone to put their best foot forward in everything you do and always be true to yourself.

Dejonai identifies herself as a first-generation college student and it means a lot to her. Being a first-generation student to her means that she is the difference. She is breaking down the walls and re-writing history to make a better life for her family and showing her siblings that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

fernandezNeyder Fernandez, Political Science

Congratulations to Neyder Fernandez, a March student of the month!

Neyder is majoring in Political Science with a concentration in International Relations & International Economics and minors in Economics and French. He is from Lowell and enjoys reading, watching Netflix and YouTube, going out to eat, and talking politics! Though he attends college in his hometown, there’s a lot he loves about UMass Lowell, like the amazing opportunities that the University provides alongside the great support system provided to the students.

As a busy student, Neyder knows his hard work will help him accomplish his future goals to work in the public and private sector for awhile before eventually running for office and becoming a Senator or another high ranking official. With the support system provided by RHSA, he says he can achieve anything. His peer leader and other members of RHSA have encouraged him to strive to do better. RHSA's events and trainings especially have made him a more confident person while further developing his skills.

Neyder chose UMass Lowell because he has gone to public schools his whole life and wanted to go to a public university. Growing up in Lowell, he saw the great changes the University was making right in his backyard. He knew he wanted to stay in his community and give back even while in college.

Neyder considers himself as a first-generation student because his parents both finished high school in Colombia but neither of them obtained a degree. He hopes to be the first person in his family to obtain a 4-year degree and a Master’s in the United States.

kingAngela King, Criminal Justice

Congratulations to March Student of the Month Angela King!

Angela is a Criminal Justice major in the college of Fine Arts, Humanities, & Social Sciences. She is from Norwell, Mass. and plays on the club basketball team.

Her favorite things about attending UMass Lowell are the friendly, diverse people and the fact that there is always something to do for everyone, no matter what their personality is. Angela has set goals for herself to become a police officer or an FBI agent and, most importantly, be happy and successful.

What has being involved with the RHSA meant to Angela? She believes it is coming together with similar people and coming into school with a set-in support system. She chose to attend UMass Lowell for financial reasons, because of its excellent Criminal Justice program, and because her uncle is a Lowell police officer. Angela is a first-generation college student who believes in making her family proud, strengthening herself, and completing a task her parents couldn’t. She watched her mom get an Associate’s degree when she and her sisters were growing up; this motivated her to attend college right after high school. She is honored to have an opportunity that her parents did not have.

kessieGifty Kessie, Mechanical Engineering

Congratulations to Gifty Kessie, a Mechanical Engineering major and Francis College of Engineering Ambassador and a March student of the month!

Gifty is from Worcester, Mass. and enjoys playing soccer, other sports, and dancing (specifically the cultural dances of Ghana). In addition to her membership in RHSA, she is also involved in All Students of African Origin (ASAO), the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), the Black Student Union (BSU), and River Hawk Rising.

Gifty decided to come to UML because she felt she could be herself on campus, and that it was the right size with vast opportunities and diversity. Her short term goal is to get on the Dean’s list this semester, and her long term goal is to work with athletic shoe engineering (working for New Balance or a similar company). She would also like to get a Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering. Being part of RHSA has meant a large support system for Gifty. Her parents and brother emigrated from Ghana before she was born, but her brother grew up in Ghana for most of his life. Her mother never finished high school because she was not able to afford it. Therefore, she is the first person in her family to earn a four year college degree. She feels that being able to be a student is a privilege, and that she will be able to help her family financially once she graduates (especially helping her parents eventually retire). She is honored to get a chance at graduating from college, help the family succeed, and show her family what she is capable of.

roblesJennifer Robles, Computer Science

Congratulations to Jennifer Robles, a February 2020 student of the month!

Jennifer is a Computer Science major from Lynn, Mass. In her high school, she was able to take web design and programming classes, which led her to her major. She found it interesting that one word or series of characters in code could change the entire way a page ended up or how code worked. In addition to this, her teacher attended UMass Lowell for Computer Science. She decided to pursue the same degree.

Jennifer’s favorite thing about UML is the sense of community. Specifically, the RHSA has given her a sense of support from her peers and professors. She knows she belongs to a group of similar students on whom she can rely for support and encouragement; as a first generation student, she does not have this guidance from her parents. While she does not know exactly what she would like to do as a career, she does know she’d like a job that involves problem solving and logical thinking.

shimomotoYemi Shimomoto, Psychology

Congratulations to Yemi Shimomoto, who is a February 2020 RHSA Student of the Month!

Yemi is a freshman Psychology major from Methuen, Mass. She would eventually like to become a guidance counselor, or work in a similar field.

Her favorite thing about UML is the support systems available to her: professors, advisors, and other, older college students she is able to talk to. RHSA has also meant this to her: she is able to meet new people who she knows will support her in her endeavors. Yemi is at UMass Lowell after taking a gap year, and is excited to be back in school. While she is a first generation student, she has sisters to whom she can look for guidance and support. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking, crocheting, and playing with her cat.