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