Momentum is sometimes a difficult
quality to define. In many cases, it becomes clear only after experience shows
a growing surge in actions that garners attention. Whether talking about a football
game or a political campaign, momentum is an essential element of success.
Such momentum is clear when looking
at The Power of Transformation campaign for the University of North Florida,
and specifically at one of the programs that is proving to be increasingly
popular with donors – The First Generation Program.
Since the kickoff of the public
phase of the campaign last year, donors have been coming forward in increasing
numbers to add dollars to the program. More than $2.5 million in First Generation
scholarships has been awarded to assist about 750 students since 2006, when the
program started. To date, about 240 students have earned degrees through the
program and several have earned or are working toward graduate degrees.
As the name implies, it is a
scholarship program designed to make college possible for the first generation
of many Florida families.
The popularity of the program works
well with the goal of The Power of Transformation campaign, according to Pierre
Allaire, vice president of Institutional Advancement. “We pride ourselves on
our ability to transform lives because of the unequaled opportunities we
provide for transformational experiences both in and outside of the classroom,”
Allaire said. “The First Generation scholarship program is quickly becoming one
of the most popular tools to make that transformation a reality for hundreds of
Part of the attraction may lie in
the State of Florida’s commitment to the program. For every private dollar
contributed to the scholarship, the state will match the donation with an equal
amount. “As matching programs go, this program is among the best,” Allaire
The list of donors grows monthly. A
The PLAYERS Championship Charities
Inc. was recently named the title sponsor of the annual First Generation
luncheon following a $250,000 pledge to the program beginning in the spring of
Jay Monahan, executive director of
THE PLAYERS Championship, said the scholarship donation presents an opportunity
to change lives. “The scholarship gives first-generation students an
opportunity for a world-class education while also giving us an opportunity to
have a significant impact on the community since so many UNF graduates remain
in the area to pursue careers.”
Private businesses also have gotten
involved in the First Generation Program.
EverBank Financial Corp., a
Jacksonville-based financial services firm, recently pledged $250,000 over five
years for the program.
Blake Wilson, EverBank president
and CFO, said one factor in the decision to support the program was UNF’s
impressive track record of helping students. “It is advantageous to EverBank to
support the education of students who will become Jacksonville’s future workforce,”
While organizational donations have
played a major role in the First Generation success story, gifts by individuals
continue to be the hallmark of the program.
Take, for example, Dianne and Gary
McCalla who decided on the First Generation program because it could be
leveraged with state funds and because it would have a long-term impact on
Jacksonville. Relatively new Jacksonville residents – they moved here about 10
years ago – the McCallas are passionate about education.
“This was a no-brainier for us,”
Dianne McCalla said. “This is the most important way we can improve
Jacksonville. It is phenomenal when you think you can give money and it will be
The McCallas wanted to have an
immediate impact with their gift and decided to give $25,000 to be used to
support the general First Generation Scholarship fund and $50,000 to go into
the Dianne and Gary McCalla First Generation Scholarship Endowment Fund to
generate revenue to assist future students.
The McCallas, like many scholarship
donors, have met with some of the student recipients. “It is so inspiring to
meet these students and to know you played a role in helping them overcome
major obstacles,” she said.
Echoing those feelings are Stephen
and Phyllis Bachand who moved to Jacksonville from Canada and decided they
wanted to contribute to the community as they’ve done everywhere else they’ve
As a first-generation college
graduate, Stephen Bachand said experience played a role in his decision to
provide scholarship support for the program. “I believe a quality education is
an engine of opportunity. If you support education, it becomes an engine of
growth, which in turns starts a chain reaction for the betterment of the
community,” he said.
The Bachand’s gift of $75,000 will
go directly to the scholarship program and generate another $75,000 in state
Banchand, a UNF Foundation Board
member, said he wants to create a “cycle of learning” with each student who
receives such a scholarship and in turn prompts their future sons, daughters
and grandchildren to attend college.