Scholarship recipients meet their benefactors for breakfast

When longtime professor of architecture Nicolas Quintana passed away in 2011, his wife, Isabel Quintana, knew she must do something to commemorate his dedication to the university and to his profession. In honor of their mutual love for FIU, she set up a scholarship in his name for students studying architecture in the College of Communication, Architecture + The Arts.

On April 17, Quintana met recipients of that scholarship at a celebratory breakfast, where 74 students who have received scholarships got the chance to get to know the donors who are supporting their studies at FIU.

“He loved FIU, and I love FIU,” Quintana said, adding that architecture students’ commitment to their studies and their craft made her husband proud to be their professor. “They have done wonderful things here at FIU. I was first here 20-some years ago, so I have seen FIU growing up and growing into a beautiful thing.”

Diego Suarez, Isabel Quintana and Vanessa Estevez

“We have too many gaps [in our community] ­– income, employment, education. They’re holding back our economic growth,” President Mark B. Rosenberg said at the breakfast. “But we’re not powerless. There are things we can do, and there are ways we can respond. So here we are, standing strong as a force for good to close those gaps and help so many who might not otherwise have the opportunity to get the education they deserve.”

Engineering alumnus Alberto Pisano ’07, MS ’11 is a rugby enthusiast and played on FIU’s club as a student. Known for being a close-knit group, alumni of the club keep in touch with current rugby players and play a game against the students every year. They also give money to help the students travel to play against other universities. So Pisano and his fellow rugby alumni are working to set up an endowment for the club.

“It’s like a fraternity. We help each other out,” Pisano said. “The reason I feel strongly about it is it’s a sport that develops character. I was very shy, very introverted. It helped me come out of my shell. It teaches good values to students, like teamwork and sacrifice, and everybody I know from the club has turned into an exceptional professional ­– not necessarily entirely because of rugby, but it helps.”

Student Larissa Nivard knew she wanted to study hospitality management because she has always loved to put others needs before her own. She is a recipient of the Carnival Bridge Scholarship, which is support by the Carnival Foundation.

“I’m definitely grateful for that scholarship, and it came at a perfect moment,” Nivard said. “I was on the almost on the verge of dropping out, because I was worried how I was going to pay for my next semester or my housing situation.”

Nivard said representatives from the Carnival Foundation were “down-to-earth,” and meeting them in person was exciting because it reaffirmed to her that “there’s a lot of people around who are going to be there to support you no matter what.”

First-generation student Gabrielle Barlatier, a junior studying early childhood education and business administration, plans to teach and eventually open up her own childcare center. One day, she hopes to earn a Ph.D. so she can teach at a university.

Barlatier’s mom and aunt moved to the United States from Haiti at the age of 14 after losing their mother to brain cancer, and they had high hopes that their children would one day pursue higher education. Barlatier is grateful to all those who support first-generation students like her at FIU.

“At first, my mom… said people don’t just give away money,” she said. “But when I told her ‘No, Mommy, I’m getting money to go to school,’ she was so proud, because she always wanted to go to school. And so it’s basically like I’m handing her her first degree, as well as mine.”

Wells Fargo announced a $50,000 donation to the First Generation Scholarship Program

At the breakfast, Wells Fargo Area President Jorge Villacampa announced a $50,000 donation from Wells Fargo to the First Generation Scholarship Program, which financially supports students who are the first in their families to attend college. Donations to first-generation scholarships are now matched two-for-one by the state of Florida, meaning the donation from Wells Fargo will be matched with a $100,000 contribution from the state.

Villacampa, a member of the FIU Foundation, Inc. Board of Directors, said he is proud to work for an organization dedicated to supporting education. “Every time I visit our branches and talk to some of our FIU grads how work for us, I become re-energized by the great job that FIU has done, and knowing we made a great investment.”

Said Rosenberg to donors, “Now, more than ever, FIU has to have impact in this community. Now, more than ever, we have to be a force for good. Now, more than ever, we will not be a stumbling block. We will be a stepping stone. Now, more than ever, you are helping us to do the right thing, which we must do. That’s why we are here, to do the right thing, and so I want to thank you for that.”

About Clara-Meretan Kiah

Clara-Meretan Kiah is a content strategist for FIU Foundation, Inc., and an alumna of FIU's College of Communication, Architecture + The Arts and The Honors College.