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Press Release for Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Fund Helps Students Become First in Family to Attend College

Media Contact: Joanna Norris, Associate Director 

Department of Public Relations 

(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, supported by THE PLAYERS Championship, at 11:30 a.m. today at the University Center on the UNF campus. 


Just over 300 UNF students were awarded First Generation scholarships in 2011-2012, thanks to University fundraising efforts and Florida’s First Generation Matching Grant Program, which began in 2006 when the Florida Legislature appropriated $6.5 million statewide to be matched by private donations. More than 1,100 UNF students have received scholarships since the program’s inception. 


UNF received a $250,000 gift from THE PLAYERS Championship Charities Inc. in 2010 to provide First Generation scholarships to students who are first in their families to go to college. Last year, the University received an additional $500,000 from THE PLAYERS, bringing the total given to $750,000. THE PLAYERS made a five-year commitment to provide scholarships to the University, which will be matched by the state on a dollar-for-dollar basis.  


“The First Generation scholarship has the potential to change the future for entire families,” said UNF President John Delaney. “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.” 


For UNF junior Chelsea Partridge, a mechanical engineering major, the First Generation Scholarship Program has literally helped her reach for the stars, powering her ambition to work in aerospace. Her love of space began when she was young. 


When I was six years old, my father used to take me outside at night to gaze up at the stars. I have vivid memories of him pointing out and explaining the constellations,” said the 19 year old. “Looking back, I can see how these experiences were the beginning of my passion and obsession with space.” 


Partridge, a Westside resident, has been able to participate in two paid internships at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, where she worked side-by-side with aerospace engineers and physicists in the Prototype Development Lab. She assisted NASA in designing a clamping tool used to help fix desiccant tubes, which detect hazardous gas leaks, for the space shuttle program. The clamping tool actually went into space in the final space shuttle missions. 


“I can barely express how thrilling it was to help design tools actually used by NASA. These hands-on, real world experiences, coupled with my classes at UNF and the interactions with my professors, have helped fuel my ambitions of becoming a mechanical engineer,” said Partridge, who hopes to one day work in the aerospace or defense industries, developing planes and rockets. 


Partridge and other First Generation Scholarship recipients will be speaking at the recognition luncheon, where approximately 100 student-scholars are expected to attend, including J.T. Townsend, a paralyzed football player who plans to graduate from UNF this year with a degree in sports management. He spends as much time as possible working with his foundation, which provides financial assistance, adaptive equipment and research funding for children and adults with disabilities or life-changing medical conditions. 


In the past five years, just under 1,200 UNF students have been a part of the First Generation Scholarship Program, using a total of $4.4 million to achieve their dreams. The University anticipates awarding scholarships averaging $2,500 to at least 300 deserving students each year.