Alex Amador is one of dozens of Collier County students who have received the Jubilee Scholarship at Florida Gulf Coast University during the past five years.
The anonymous donation covers tuition, books, room and board and incidentals during recipients’ four-year careers at FGCU.
Students must maintain a 2.5 GPA, live on campus with the goal of becoming immersed in the college experience without the burden of commuting from home or working long hours to pay their bills. Jubilee Scholars agree not to work in the fall and spring semesters so they can devote time to volunteering with student organizations, complete service-learning hours and explore careers.
The benefactors understand that typically many FGCU students must work several part-time jobs to make ends meet and that students from middle-income families don’t often qualify for grants reserved for lower-income families but might not earn enough to pay for college out of pocket with room and board running $10,000 to $14,000 in addition to tuition. The goal is to provide students with a rich on-campus college experience.
“The purpose of the scholarship is to help students with families of lower- to middle-income means come to college and have the full college experience (i.e. live on campus),” said Dolly Farrell, director of major gifts and stewardship at FGCU. “It is a full ride, amounting to about $20,000 a year.”
Two students are selected each year from the AP Leadership program at Grace Place for Children & Families, a Naples-based nonprofit organization. “Two other students (sometimes more) are selected by FGCU,” Farrell added.
There are 19 Jubilee students on campus this year. FGCU 360 caught up with Amador and five other current students and graduates who are recipients to see how the scholarship impacted their lives.
“I knew I would have an incredible college experience thanks to this scholarship, but I had no clue how profoundly this scholarship, your generosity, was going to affect my life.”
– Alex Amador, ’19, in a letter describing university experience
Rebecca Paul, 18, a freshman from Naples majoring in biology, says the Jubilee is a dream come true. Neither of her parents attended college, but they always stressed the importance of an education. FGCU was always her dream school.
Paul is an outstanding student who aspires to become an orthodontist. She graduated last May from three schools: Lorenzo Walker Technical High School, the Dental Assisting Program at Technical College and Florida SouthWestern State College, with an associate’s degree. Her weighted GPA in high school was a 6.01.
“Thanks to your giving spirit, I will be able to attend my dream school without a single worry about how I am going to afford it,” she wrote to the donors. “With the Jubilee Scholarship, I will be able to graduate from my 4-year university debt-free. Without the Jubilee, I would’ve had to work part-time, while taking my upper-level 17 credits of biology coursework.
“Working while taking those difficult courses would’ve greatly affected my academic performance. Now I can afford my tuition costs, get the on-campus experience, study abroad and get invested in the FGCU community.”
Amador, 22, of Naples, says the scholarship allowed him to do more than just attend college.
“It allowed me to be successful at FGCU,” said Amador, who majored in biology with concentrations in ecology and microbiology. “The financial burden that was removed from me and my parents was immense.”
Amador credits the scholarship for giving him social opportunities and the chance to study abroad for a semester.
“The ability to live on campus and be so involved with FGCU life is amazing,” he said. “Having the free time to join clubs, organizations, or sports clubs is incredible and enhanced my collegiate career in a multitude of ways. The Jubilee Scholarship transformed my experience from something potentially average to something extraordinarily meaningful and life-changing.”
Amador is now pursuing a graduate degree in botany. He credits the scholarship with helping him discover his love of plant life.
“Thanks to the support of these anonymous donors, I was able to realize my passion for plants and the environment. I would have never had this realization if I did not have this support.”
Aidan Gorman, 19, of Naples, a sophomore, says a unique family situation made receiving the scholarship extra helpful.
“I’m a triplet, meaning I have two siblings the exact same age as me who are all going to college at the same time,” said Gorman, who is majoring in marketing. “Unfortunately for my parents, putting three kids through college all at once is quite a daunting task. But thanks to the financial support of this scholarship, so much weight has been lifted off both me and my parents’ shoulders, and for that I am forever grateful.”
‘Find my passions’
Lesley Cruz, ’19, a psychology major from Naples, says the scholarship has had a big impact on her life by “providing me with the opportunity to obtain my bachelor’s degree without a financial constraint.
“With this scholarship, I never had to worry about having a job or commuting to campus,” said Cruz, who is majoring in psychology with a concentration in neuroscience. “All of my time at FGCU has been devoted to my personal and professional growth. Not having to pay for college allowed me the freedom to find my passions and use them to help various communities.
“Due to my involvement, I have been able to advocate for lives in Washington, D.C., provide hurricane relief in Puerto Rico and support FGCU students’ success through the various executive leadership positions I have held.”
‘Achieve my goals’
Evan Lountchenko, a freshman from Naples, says receiving the scholarship enables him to concentrate on service and academics. His mother is a teacher and his stepfather is an assistant principal in a local school district. Their blended family includes six children, of which Evan is the second oldest. He had planned to live at home and commute to save money. That is, until he was interviewed for the Jubilee Scholarship.
“I am thankful to be a recipient, as it is helping me achieve my goals that come with going to college,” said Lountchenko, who is majoring in bioengineering. “Now I can focus more on studies and serving the community, without the financial worries associated with college expenses. As a bonus, I can start looking into summer internships or travel opportunities that would enhance my career path.”
Abigail Sanjuan-Santiago, a junior from Naples and first-generation student, said the scholarship “has led me to push myself to better my family and to be a role model for my sister.”
Majoring in social work, Sanjuan-Santiago says she “dealt with my aunt being detained last year and my family was going through an economic hardship at that time, but thankfully I had this scholarship to help me pay for my classes and books. With the support of the Jubilee Scholarship, I am able to fully immerse myself in the FGCU community by being a university ambassador, peer educator from Prevention & Wellness, an honors senator and president of the Student Farmworker Alliance.”
As they were intended to do, the Jubilee Scholarships have eased recipients’ stresses, allowing them to focus on their college educations.
- To know more about Jubilee Scholarships, contact Dolly Farrell at (239) 590-7638 or [email protected].
- To apply for other FGCU Foundation Scholarships, visit fgcu.edu/foundationscholarships. The application period opened Oct. 1, with priority deadline Jan. 1. The application remains open through March 1.