Archives from January 2015


Ena Barisic

Major/Year: Political Science/ First Year
Hometown: Bosnia & Jacksonville, Florida

Ena is the first and only person in her entire family to attend college. She and her family moved from Bosnia in 1999. Ena has broken the family mold of marrying early and studying for a medical career in high school. She is proud to be the one setting the standard for the younger members of her family back home in Bosnia. “Since no one has went to college to give me tips on how to go through it; whenever I accomplish something it means more.”

Ena is already giving back to the first… Read More »

Jessica Irvine

Major/Year: Elementary Education/First Year
Hometown: Newberry, Florida

Jessica has had a life full of experiences. She is a former foster youth and has always found the positive in life. She always wanted to attend college, but did not see the University of Florida as an option for her. To Jessica being a student at UF is “like a dream come true”.

For Jessica, the best part of being first generation and a Machen Florida Opportunity Scholar is being a part of a community that understands the amount of work it took to get to college. “Just ‘cause you get into… Read More »

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 »