Jessica Valdes

Major/Year: Political Science/ First Year
Hometown: Havana, Cuba & Miami, Florida

Jessica comes from a large family in Cuba. She fondly remembers the times she spent growing up with her close-knit family. Her accomplishments as a first generation student mean that she will make her family proud. She is grateful for the sacrifices her mother made in moving her to the US when she was 12 years old. “It’s really important for me to make my family proud… [it means] their struggles were not in vain.”

Jessica has found strength in her first generation identity. She attended the… Read More »

Elena Smith

Major/Year: Nutritional Science/ First Year
Hometown: Clearwater, Florida

Elena is an overcomer. She has always wanted to go to college and she took all of the steps necessary to make it. However, like many students, financing her college education was of major concern.

She stayed focused throughout school even after losing both of her parents to cancer. Fortunately, she had her grandmother and her aunt to take her in and support her in her aspirations to attend college.

It means a lot to Elena to be a Machen Florida Opportunity Scholar and have the financial… Read More »

Jacob Gonzalez

Major/Year: Computer Engineering
Hometown: Lake Station, Indiana & Orlando, Florida

Coming to college was no small feat for Jacob; especially when the first 17 years of his life were filled with so much change. After his parents divorced, Jacob moved to Florida with his mother and younger sister. His living situation included living in a one bedroom apartment with his mother and sister to living with relatives to living with family friends. Jacob reflects on how it was difficult to get school work done sometimes because there were times when there was no electricity or gas or… Read More »

Tachana Joseph

Major/Year: Criminology and Political Science with a Minor in Latin American Studies and Public Leadership/4th year
Hometown: Port de Paix, Haiti & Fort Lauderdale, FL

Tachana is a busy scholar who is making her mark at the University of Florida. Born in Haiti, she moved to the United States, with her two sisters, to live with her dad at a young age. She is proud to be a first generation student. “It’s like being a [positive] symbol…for your family and other people who may think, being first generation, higher education is not attainable.” She thinks of herself as a trailblazer and an example for others to go to college. She frequently shares her first… Read More »

Rose-Camille Ficil

Major/Year: Tourism and Recreation/3rd Year
Hometown: Gonaives, Haiti & Orlando, FL

Rose came to this country when she was 11 years old because her parents wanted her to have better educational opportunities than what were offered in Haiti. She was adopted by her uncle when she immigrated; and the benefit of attaining an education in the US has been more than beneficial for her. When asked about immigrating to the US, Rose says it was a tough transition from life in Haiti, but in her parents’ opinion, “They felt like here [in the US], I would have better opportunities.”

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