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Press Release for Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Fund Helps Students Become First in Family to Attend College

Contact: Joanna Norris, Assistant Director
Department of Media Relations and Events
(904) 620-2102

Earning a college degree may seem like an impossible dream to students hoping to be the first in their families to attend college, but it’s not anymore. The University of North Florida will recognize students who are the first in their families to seek a four-year college degree during a First Generation Scholarship Luncheon at 11:30 a.m. on Friday, March 28, at the University Center on campus.

More than 300 UNF students were awarded First Generation scholarships in 2007-2008, thanks to UNF fundraising efforts and Florida’s First Generation Matching Grant Program. The program began in 2006, when the Florida Legislature appropriated $6.5 million statewide to be matched by private donations.

“I believe that giving a student the opportunity to be the first in his or her family to go to college is truly a great gift,” said UNF President John A. Delaney. “It has the potential to change the future for entire families.”

The University needs to raise $400,000 for this fall in private support, which will be matched by the state and will provide $800,000 in need-based First Generation scholarships. The students must meet UNF’s academic standards.

According to the 2000 U.S. Census, only 21 percent of Duval County residents age 25 and older are college graduates. According to UNF estimates, more than 1,000 students qualify for the First Generation program.

UNF physical therapy major Thea Tani is the youngest of six kids. The First Generation Scholarship has given her hope and encouragement to stay the course. She graduated from high school with honors and received a Florida Bright Future’s Scholarship; however, she got caught up in the party life at a large university. She lost direction and quit college and as a result, lost her scholarship.

After dropping out of college, her oldest sister was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. She went home to take care of her sister and her two small children. Shortly after returning home, her sister passed away from a massive stroke. “Through all of her suffering, she never lost her spirit,” said Tani. “She was the catalyst to me getting my life back on track, back in school, and on to the path of becoming a physical therapist.”

The First Generation Scholarship has meant an opportunity of a life time for Chip Polite, a UNF psychology major. “For me, this scholarship has meant a year of playing Division 1 basketball, winning homecoming king and a chance to run for Student Government,” he said. “All of these opportunities have been provided by my scholarship. My college education would not be possible without the help of such a wonderful program.”

The University anticipates awarding scholarships averaging $2,500 to at least 300 deserving students each year.