Students, families, faculty, staff, alumni, and special guests gathered on February 4, 2017 to honor and celebrate 99 incoming first-year students in completing the College Now/START Program.
Out of the 99 incoming first-year students, 34 finished the fall semester with a GPA of 3.0 or higher, earning the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Talent Merit Scholarship (see list below).
Achievements at UMassD & beyond
First-year and guest speakers expressed their gratitude to the staff and faculty who work with the College Now/START Program.
College Now/START alumna Maritsa Barros '05 took attendees down memory lane when she shared her experience with the College Now/START Program and how it got her to where she is now. Her achievements since graduating from UMass Dartmouth reassured both first-year and upper-level students that hard work pays off—while also giving first-year students something more to look forward to.
There was a moment in the banquet when the audience fell silent and sat in compassion, as senior speaker Etienne Niyonsaba ’17 shared his journey through life.
Etienne touched members of the audience as he spoke about his life in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Etienne explained his early troubles, with all the obstacles he and his family had to face before finally being able to come to the U.S. Once arriving in the U.S and settling in Worcester, Etienne decided he was going to turn his life around for the better. Etienne started at the university in the fall of 2012, when his English was still at a beginner level. However, with the help of his fellow colleagues and the College Now/START staff, he was able, once again, to overcome obstacles. In spring 2017, Etienne will be graduating with his bachelor's degree in accounting, with a GPA above 3.0.
Members of the audience were also able to hear the ac complishments of freshmen speakers Yovelys Alvarez Lara '20, Adam Gherbi '20, and Anna Ho '20, as they spoke about their paths to college and now their paths to success. What we were all able to gather from our freshman speakers is that they started off less fortunate than others, but somehow found a way to turn things around and succeed through their first semester of college—even when someone had told them that they could not. The members of the audience acknowledged both the speakers’ willingness to be successful during all four years at UMass Dartmouth, and that the College Now/START Program is a place where students have a second chance to become successful.
As first-year students received certificates for their completion of the program, College Now/START also honored 16 students in the program with Share the Dream Scholarships. These scholarships were awarded in recognition of the students' outstanding academic performance and for their representation of the College Now/START Program.
Share the Dream Scholarship recipients
Mercy Anna Hope-Sowah
Gilbert Osei Marfo
Rafael Segura Matos
Reflecting on the banquet, College Now director Craig Elkins said, "Thanks to commitment of the university’s stakeholders, generous donations, and the lasting legacy of College Now alumni, over 50 students received scholarships and grants in recognition of their hard work and academic performance. I want to thank all participants, donors, and attendees; without your contributions the program would not be what it is today."
At the end of the ceremony, members of the College Now/START freshmen class of 2017 were honored with certificates for successfully completing the program for the 2016-2017 academic year.
2017 first-year students
Yovelys Alvarez Lara*
Daniel Silva Andrade*
Riche Love Emmanuel
Latisha Guerrero Dejesus
Gilbert Osei Marfo
Ashley Pires Macedo
Kevin Quintero Gomez
Gabriela Rodrigues Pires
Heliane Lopes Vieira
* Talent Merit Scholarship recipient
An earlier version of this story, written by Rashelle Noncent, ran in the Spring 2017 College Now Newsletter.