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River Hawk Scholars Awarded Scholarships

Independent University Alumni Association Supports First-generation College Students

Psychology major and River Hawk Scholar Dejonai Willis displays her scholarship certificate from the Independent Association of University Alumni at Lowell Photo by K. Webster
River Hawk Scholar and psychology major Dejonai Willis displays the scholarship she received from the Independent University Alumni Association at Lowell.

By Katharine Webster

History major Jenna Saade works two jobs and studies full time as she pursues her goal of becoming a high school history teacher. 

A first-generation college student, Saade and her twin sister can’t rely on financial help from their parents to pay for college. So she was grateful to get a $1,000 scholarship from the Independent University Alumni Association at Lowell (IUAAL) at the start of her second semester. It’s one of many scholarships available to UMass Lowell students.

“It made me realize that my hard work and effort that I am putting into my future are paying off, and that there are people who want to see me succeed and help support me,” Saade says.

Saade is a member of the River Hawk Scholars Academy, a support program for first-year, first-generation students. She was among 15 River Hawk Scholars, including several RHSA graduates who now serve as peer mentors and peer leaders in the program, who received IUAAL scholarships last week.
UMass Lowell Provost Joe Hartman and Jennifer Percival, associate dean of the Manning School of Business, chat with River Hawk Scholars who got scholarships from the Independent University Alumni Association at Lowell Photo by K. Webster
Provost Joseph Hartman and Jennifer Percival, associate dean of the Manning School of Business, chat with several scholarship recipients.

Peg Shanahan, executive director of the IUAAL, says she was pleased that so many River Hawk Scholars applied for scholarships this year. The association, which was started by graduates of Lowell Textile School in 1900 and joined forces with alumni of Lowell State in 1975 after the colleges merged, counted among its early members many first-generation college students whose parents were millworkers and immigrants.

“We hope the money makes an impact,” Shanahan says. “These scholarships tie into our history of supporting local and first-generation students.”

Shanahan said the IUAAL hopes to renew the students’ scholarships each year, as long as they do well academically and get involved on campus.

“The IUAAL is like a family, and we really want to follow you through your time at the university,” she told the River Hawk Scholars at an informal celebration.

The association gave out $129,000 in grants and scholarships to UML students and programs this year as it celebrates its 120th anniversary. The grants include an additional $2,500 to help 10 River Hawk Scholars travel to the AL1GN conference in Richmond, Va., an event that is planned and organized each year by first-generation students at the host universities.