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 Making Dreams a Reality for First-Generation Students

 “Education is the key to success … and hard work pays dividends.” The adage was one that Almeta Monroe-Turner heard time and time again growing up. It was among countless words of wisdom her mother shared often throughout her lifetime. 


Monroe-Turner’s mother was the first in her family to finish high school. At age 50, she graduated from Biscayne College with a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education, the same year Almeta’s brother was a freshman at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University. Almeta entered UCF shortly after and recalls not only her mother’s commitment to education, but also the tremendous sacrifices her father made to support his wife and children during those college years. 


The memories and sacrifices continue to inspire Monroe-Turner and motivated her to make the dream of a college education a reality for others. In 2011, she started the Almeta Monroe-Turner First Generation Scholarship at the University of North Florida. In addition to her mother, her husband, Jeff, was also a first-generation student. “I wanted to start the scholarship early in my life and career so I could meet, interact with and watch students grow,” said Monroe-Turner, a State Farm insurance agent. This year, she pledged a significant estate gift to add to her endowed UNF scholarship. She also established a scholarship for graduate students at FAMU, The Almeta Monroe-Turner Women In STEM Scholarship. 


Almeta Monroe-Turner and her husband Jeff TurnerSince her first donation to UNF, two students have benefited from Monroe-Turner’s generosity, with one graduating in May – a proud moment for both her and the student, though an in-person commencement was not possible due to the pandemic. 


She and Jeff have enjoyed interacting with the scholars over the years, particularly at UNF Foundation scholarship luncheons where they talk to the students about their experiences and plans for the future. In fact, that interaction is one of the reasons she picked UNF. 


“I sought out UNF,” said Monroe-Turner. “I wanted to do this at a school where I could participate. The University responded wonderfully. UNF just became my school.” 


Monroe-Turner, who serves on the UNF Foundation board, said instead of birthday or holiday gifts, she encourages friends to direct their well wishes to the scholarship fund or the Foundation, and also tells them how they can begin their own legacy of giving. “I never thought that I would have an opportunity to do this,” she said, “but I’m constantly telling people how easy it is.” 


Almeta Monroe-Turner’s gift will change the lives of many students and their families – a fact that is a bit awe-inspiring to her. “It is such a wonderful way to impact someone’s life — to help someone go to school,” she said. “It is truly just the coolest, best thing I’ve ever done.