Neasha Prince Encourages First-Generation Students to Feel Proud
FAU junior Neasha Prince considers her Kelly/Strul Emerging Scholarship a thank-you to her mom.
“She had to work two to three jobs to makes sure there was food on the table for my sister and me to eat,” Prince says. “Receiving the call from the Kelly/Strul team was the best gift I could ever give to my mother, to pay her back for what she’s done and what she’s sacrificed for my sister and me.”
FAU’s Kelly/Strul Emerging Scholars Program awards full scholarships to selected first-generation, low-income students from across Florida.
Each of FAU’s 8,500 first-generation students has a unique story. For Prince, hers began in Haiti, where her parents and older sister lived until her mom and dad decided to seek better opportunities. She was born shortly after they arrived in Fort Lauderdale. Her parents divorced, and she and her older sister shuttled between their parents’ houses, her mom working several jobs to provide for Prince and her sister.
In high school, Prince became very involved in DECA, an international student marketing organization. Between her role as vice president of the DECA group at her high school and as class president, she had experience leading hundreds of people by the time she graduated from high school.
As Prince met other first-generation students when she arrived on campus, she noticed that many of them were reluctant to share their stories. “Oftentimes, first-gen students feel that they shouldn’t express to other students that they’re the first in the family to go to college,” Prince says. “But it’s something you should be proud of.”
Prince wants first-generation students to embrace their accomplishments. That’s why she felt strongly that the word “Proud” should be part of the name of the new student organization she helped create to support her fellow “first-geners.” First and Proud, with nearly 800 members, creates a community of peers with similar experiences and challenges, as well as the resources to help them along the way, including mentoring and career services.
“I want community to be at the center of it all,” Prince says. “Without community, our first generation students will not succeed. They need a community to tell them that they’re doing great and to give them an extra push.”
At FAU, Prince found an environment pulling for students like her to succeed. FAU’s First-Generation Student Success office provides important scaffolding for students whose parents might not have ever filled out a college application, applied for financial aid or selected classes. First and Proud gives them a network of friends with similar experiences. And the Kelly/Strul program creates access to excellence through a full scholarship package, mentoring, coaching about financial literacy and career planning, and internship opportunities.
The Kelly/Strul Emerging Scholars Program was developed by FAU President John Kelly and his wife Carolyn Kelly, in partnership with Boca Raton philanthropists Aubrey and Sally Strul, to prepare students for successful college careers and meaningful post-graduate lives. The program’s leaders recently encouraged Prince to attend a conference by the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities in Atlanta. While there, she interviewed for a summer internship at Kellogg’s; they offered her the job.
Prince’s path is just beginning, but her long-view vision is to pursue a Ph.D. in education and continue her work for first-generation students. “I’m not sure how my story is going to be written, but I want to make sure that first-generation students are always a part of it,” she says.
— Abigail Klingbeil