For DonorsFor Applicants

New Jersey First Generation Scholarship

Funded by
Picture of the donor
Diaz Family
2 winners, $2,845 each
Application Deadline
Apr 17, 2024
Winners Announced
May 17, 2024
Education Level
High School, Undergraduate
Recent scholarship winners
Eligibility Requirements
Must be 3.5 or above
Education Level:
Must be a high school senior or undergraduate student
Must be first generation

Only 26% of those without a college parent get a bachelor’s degree. Due to the financial burdens of education, many first-generation students are unable to pursue their dreams of getting a college education.

As first-generation college graduates, my wife and I personally know the difficulties and hurdles that many families face in affording a college education. We both met at Elizabeth High School in New Jersey and attended universities here in the state. Due to financial hardships at home, my wife had to work full time in order to afford her schooling.

Because of the challenges that she faced in order to get an education, we created this scholarship to give $2500 to 2 first generation college students in New Jersey. Our education both in high school and in college has provided us with a gateway to great careers. We look forward to providing that same opportunity to someone in need.

In order to apply, you must be a high school senior or undergraduate student who is active in extracurricular activities and has a GPA of 3.5 or above.

Selection Criteria:
Ambition, Need, Boldest Profile
Published November 1, 2023
Essay Topic

Tell us what being a first-generation college graduate means to you and how your extracurricular activities have contributed to shaping who you've become.

400–600 words

Winning Applications

Alexa Amico
Jefferson Township High SchoolLk Hopatcong, NJ
In my journey toward happiness and success, I've always believed that the path we take holds as much value as the destination itself. My vision for the future is one where I've attained success through dedication and perseverance, ultimately becoming a self-sufficient and accomplished woman. While I'm still exploring my specific career path, my passion lies in working with children, whether it be in early childhood education, speech pathology, or pediatric healthcare. My journey in this field started at a young age as a Mother's Helper and gradually transitioned into roles such as a Babysitter and a Teacher’s Assistant at a local daycare. Additionally, I've been actively involved in my high school's Child Development program, where I've had the opportunity to care for and educate preschool-age children. This hands-on experience has solidified my passion for working with children and has provided me with valuable insights into many aspects of childcare. My involvement as a dedicated Volunteer Recreational Cheerleading Coach has further contributed to shaping who I've become. I've volunteered my time to mentor and teach younger cheerleaders various skills, from sideline cheers and dances to halftime routines, safe stunting, and tumbling techniques. This experience has not only reinforced my passion for working with children but has also shaped my career aspirations. Born into adversity to teenage parents who faced homelessness and health struggles, I've witnessed firsthand the importance of resilience and determination. As a first-generation college student, I am driven by a desire to break free from the constraints of my upbringing and create a better life for myself and my family. Education, to me, represents more than just a degree; it symbolizes hope, opportunity, and the chance to rise above the limitations that I have witnessed my parents be stunted by. Being a first-generation college graduate means defying expectations, embracing opportunities, and forging a path of success for myself and future generations. It symbolizes breaking barriers and paving the way for others in my family and community to follow. My pursuit of higher education is not only for personal advancement but also to inspire those around me and demonstrate that with hard work, perseverance, and education, anything is possible. Despite the financial challenges and hardships I've encountered, I remain unwavering in my pursuit of higher education. With this scholarship, I see an opportunity to turn my dreams into reality, to demonstrate that with hard work, perseverance, and education, anything is possible. This scholarship will not only alleviate some of the financial burdens but also provide me with the support and resources necessary to continue on my journey towards success. I am determined to seize this opportunity, to expand my horizons, and to make a positive impact in the lives of others.
Samantha Brown
Kean UniversityN Middletown, NJ
College is an unattainable dream for many in my family. There is no legacy of Ivy League schools, high end careers, or a happy ever after. The generations of Browns leave behind a legacy of teen pregnancies, drug & alcohol addictions, mental illness, chronic diseases, poverty, and an early invitation to the grave. Those of us who live past our teen years are often met with a grim fate not much longer after our twenties. We’re lucky if we get to see our sixties. The roots of my family tree date back centuries. The first of our names dates back before the Pilgrims. The branches of each blood line all share the same stories though. Children forced to grow up before the age of 15 to help their families survive. My parents included. In my mother’s very first day of high-school, my grandmother signed her out. She needed her to get a job so she could help put food on the table and keep the younger kids alive. She had to help pay the bills and raise kids that weren’t her own. She was an adult before she ever got the chance to be a child. She was only 14. My father was lucky enough to obtain his GED in his twenties. Shortly thereafter he joined the Navy. He served during the Vietnam war. His role was finding the dead bodies of soldiers and bringing them home. He never talked about the things he had seen. It was obvious that it was painful when you looked into his eyes. My cousins on both sides of my family are all teen parents, addicts, suffering from mental illness, or have cancer and are dying. None of them have ever attended college, some of them finished high school while others simply gave up. They all have the same life. I don’t want that life. I didn’t make it through high school either. My educators failed me when it was obvious I had a learning disorder. They failed me when I begged for time off to mourn the passing of my father when I was 15. They failed me when it was obvious that I could no longer focus on school because all I could think about was how I wanted my life to end. They failed me, so I took matters into my own hands. In February of 2018 I dropped out of high school to pursue my GED instead. It took me a few years to pass the exams, but I finally did it in March of 2021. The day I found out that I passed, I immediately applied to community college. I had one goal in mind. I was going to break the generational cycle. I was the first in my family on either side to attend college. I was the first to graduate as well. I graduated from Brookdale Community College in May of this year. It took so much hard work, but I did it. The tears my mother shed as she watched me walk across that stage were tears from everyone before me. My grandparents who never made it through high school. My uncles and aunts who never got the opportunity to go to college. Every last one. I may have walked the same path as many of them, but I was finally able to unlock the door at the end. I will pave a new way for future generations of my family. Our legacy will change. I will continue to break down the walls. I still have two years left, so my work isn’t done yet. -S
nicole piccininni
New Jersey Institute of TechnologyParsippany-Troy Hills, NJ
I will never forget one lesson from my seventh-grade math class. We were studying probability and statistics, learning how to calculate percentages of a population using fractions. To help us understand, my math teacher conducted polls among the students. After each scenario, we would raise our hands if we fell into the group. Then, my teacher created fractions based on how many students raised their hands, which we converted into percentages. We were prompted with different scenarios, like “Raise your hand if you have a pet,” or “Raise your hand if you like broccoli.” Suddenly, I heard my teacher say: “Raise your hand if one of your parents has a four-year college degree.” I looked anxiously around the room as more and more of my peers’ hands shot up. A second later, my hand was the only one that wasn’t raised. Out of that twenty-student class, I was the only person who would become a first-generation student. Nineteen out of twenty students, 95% of the class, had parents with a college education. It was then that I realized I was different from my peers in my middle-class New Jersey suburb. At first, I was embarrassed to be the daughter of parents who lacked the modern equivalent of a standard education. But over time, I realized how incredible my parents were. They worked harder to make their lives successful so that they could provide for our family. My mom grew up modestly among her siblings. She decided against attending college for four years. Even so, she ventured her way through the business industry and found a stable career. My dad is an immigrant who moved to America as a teenager. He came here speaking hardly any English, with nothing more than the clothes on his back and his seven siblings. College was never an option for him. Yet through sheer diligence, he succeeded in his life. After recognizing how hard my parents have worked to triumph for themselves and our family, I am proud. I am proud of myself, too, for defying the odds and paving a path for myself to attend college. Through various extracurriculars, I have been able to explore my curiosities. At the beginning of my freshman year, I joined a club called HOSA — Health Occupations Students of America. I met driven, ambitious dreamers. I saw myself in them. HOSA provided me with invaluable knowledge, from time management skills to the understanding of the vastness of healthcare. Above all, my experiences with HOSA affirmed my belief that I wanted to be a healthcare worker. Although, it was not until I began volunteering at my local first aid squad that I was certain that I wanted to provide patient care. Working with people of all different backgrounds at their most vulnerable moments and receiving a glimpse into their life stories is a privilege. Being an EMT has shaped me more than any other extracurricular activity could: it has allowed me to dive into a field where I can gain real experience with real patients and real emergencies. Through other extracurriculars, like the Red Cross Club, Youth Climate Action Coalition, and even Jazz Band, I have not only certified my love for medicine, but also cultivated new hobbies and interests, like altruism, activism, and music. I would not be the person I am today had it not been for the opportunity to participate in these activities. I am privileged to be defiant of the odds for first-generation students. My background and interests make me the person I am today, and they will also shape the person I will become.
Angie Bedoya
Kean UniversityRahway, NJ
Good evening, First, I want to thank you for this beautiful opportunity and for helping the Hispanic community, unity will help us to become stronger. My name is Angie Bedoya, I'm a first generation of immigrants in the USA, I first came to the country in 2014 to study English and continue my education when I was 18 years old. I'm an only child I had to leave my mom and family in Colombia to look for a better life quality and future here. As soon as I came, I was living with my uncle, and I started to work as cashier while studying. Since the first week of getting to the country I found a job and I had to look for a room to rent. This was my first time out of my native country with no previous knowledge in English I was very young I missed my mom so much, but I continued with my purpose here which was obtaining a bachelor's degree. In 2018 I graduate from Union County Collage I got an associate degree in Psychology I paid for my English Classes and degree by myself with so much effort working and studying full time. In 2019 I started classes at Kean University and my GPA is 3.9. Unfortunately, the University is so much more expensive than college and I had to stop my education to save money to continue. I haven't been able to save all the money I need to cover for my tuition, but out of faith I'm register for Spring 2022. I'd greatly appreciate if you can give me the opportunity to attend this semester, I only have 1 year left to graduate and be able to accomplish for what I have worked so hard. This means everything for me and my family. Thank you, Angie


When is the scholarship application deadline?

The application deadline is Apr 17, 2024. Winners will be announced on May 17, 2024.

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