November 8, 2022

Purdue Global honors 16 students with inaugural First-Generation College Student Scholarships

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Almost half of Purdue Global students are the first in their family to attend college. Nicole Hanson is one and, like her fellow students, she is rightfully proud.

“I am honored to be a first-generation college student in my family,” said Hanson, who is pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration – procurement. “I hope to prove to my son that it's never too late to get a college education.”

Hanson, from Hazel Park, Michigan, is one of 16 Purdue Global students honored Tuesday (Nov. 8) – First-Generation College Student Day – with inaugural First-Generation College Student Scholarships. Recipients received up to $500 toward their Purdue Global tuition and fees. The number of recipients is based on the funds raised annually ($8,000 this year).

“This scholarship means a lot because, as a first-generation student in my family, it not only shows how ambitious I am, but it also shows that no matter how busy your life may get, you can still make time for your goals,” said another scholarship recipient, Chanell Cabezas, a Tamarac, Florida, resident who is working on an Associate of Applied Science degree in criminal justice. “This scholarship has helped me financially. I am a mother to three children, so it has made it easier on my family. I appreciate being selected by Purdue Global as a first-generation student. I am so proud of myself and everyone else that is reaching their goals.”

The scholarship recipients and their majors:

  • Michael Bronish, Lorain, Ohio, BS cybersecurity
  • Chanell Cabezas, Tamarac, Florida, AAS criminal justice
  • T’era Clyde, Columbus, Georgia, BS legal support and services
  • LaChrishia Diffenderfer, Trout Run, Pennsylvania, BS health science
  • Viktor Hadjiev, Pingree Grove, Illinois, BS psychology – industrial/organizational psychology
  • Nicole Hanson, Hazel Park, Michigan, BS business administration – procurement
  • Brianna Keller-Fields, Kokomo, Indiana, BS psychology – applied behavior analysis
  • Cailtin Kelly, Houston, BS human services in youth/family services and administration
  • Nicole Kozma, Dearborn Heights, Michigan, BS psychology – addiction
  • Marissa Matukaitis, Mount Carmel, Pennsylvania, BS psychology – applied behavior analysis
  • Shannon McMahon, Iowa City, Iowa, BS business administration
  • Morgan Medina, West Bend, Wisconsin, BS criminal justice – forensic psychology
  • Adi Reich, San Diego, BS health science
  • Giorgio Russo, Miami, BS business administration
  • Stormy Speirs, Rowland Heights, California, BS human services in youth/family services and administration
  • Zach Weitzel, Macungie, Pennsylvania, BS psychology

“We are proud of all our first-generation students and to have them as part of the Purdue Global family,” Chancellor Frank Dooley said. “Today, we are pleased to honor 16 students with our inaugural First-Generation College Student Scholarship. Each of these students has demonstrated tremendous perseverance and persistence in their pursuit of a college education while balancing everything else that life has thrown at them. Congratulations to them on this accomplishment. This is just a start, and we will continue to work to identify ways to support our first-generation students.”

MORE: Watch Purdue Global’s Fall 2022 commencement ceremony

First-Generation College Student Scholarships are open to Purdue Global students who have completed three terms of study of an eligible undergraduate associate or bachelor’s degree program at Purdue Global with a 3.5 or higher cumulative grade-point average. Candidates must meet Purdue Global standards for satisfactory academic progress, as outlined in the university catalog, and have no Code of Student Conduct violations. In addition, applicants must submit a 500-word essay answering the following questions: What motivated you to pursue a college education? What advice would you give a student who is experiencing an obstacle or challenge while pursuing their degree?

First-Generation College Student Day has been celebrated nationally since 2017, when it was selected by the Council for Opportunity in Education and the Center for First-Generation Student Success to commemorate the anniversary of the signing of the Higher Education Act of 1965 by President Lyndon B. Johnson.

What scholarship recipients are saying: 

“Growing up, the term college has invoked several different emotions. At first, college felt like the natural progression of life, where everyone would eventually end up. After some years learning about the world and my family’s situation, I came to believe that I may never attend college. Filled with a sense of nihilism, I started to believe college was never going to be a possibility. Despite being surrounded by teachers and friends that encouraged me up through high school graduation, I was not convinced that I would be attending college. I spent the better part of the next decade trying to figure things out, meeting new people, working different jobs, but mostly learning about myself. After meeting the lady what would be my wife, I started working on bettering myself. Eventually, the idea of going back to school crept back into my mind. It wasn’t until I held my daughter for the first time that I made the decision to continue my education. Even though I’m over halfway to obtaining my degree, I cannot say I have felt like a college student. Perhaps it is due to being enrolled in a strictly online learning path, which may subtract from some part of the experience on-campus students receive. However, being chosen to receive the First-Generation Scholarship has completely shifted my perception of my career at Purdue Global and the impact it will have on my family. Being recognized for the effort and dedication I have put forth so far has made it feel real, giving me a renewed sense of enthusiasm and determination. The biggest obstacle you will ever face in life is yourself. Doubt and worries will kill even the most realistic of dreams. Do not resign yourself to your history. As cliché as it may sound, it is never too late to become more than your past, more than your surroundings and more than you thought possible.” – Michael Bronish, Lorain, Ohio 

“As a first-generation student, being awarded this scholarship feels like the beginning. I have fought my way through being another statistic, and I shall continue to persevere. I am proud of myself and excited to see what comes next.” – T’era Clyde, Columbus, Georgia

“The first-generation scholarship being offered to me is extremely appreciated and needed. I have been in financial situations that have been difficult to overcome when paying for college tuition. The availability of this scholarship serves a demographic that is likely to be uneducated or unaware of the financial assistance that is available to them. By Purdue Global offering this type of scholarship, individuals that may face these barriers to achieving their education goals are now able to make ends meet to achieve those goals. By being granted this scholarship, I am able to continue my education in the field of applied behavior analysis in order to reach my future career goals. I have been able to gain additional resources through my academic journey that will help me transition into the professional field. I personally chose to attend Purdue Global because of the wide range of assistance that is provided to its students to ensure that they will reach academic success. Purdue Global does an excellent job at providing students with a multitude of resources and support throughout the experience to ensure its students and alumni are prepared for the professional world.” – Brianna Keller-Fields, Kokomo, Indiana

“This scholarship is such a blessing to me. I never thought that I would be chosen to receive this scholarship, but I believed it was worth at least submitting an essay. This is a huge accomplishment for me. Not only am I a first-generation college student, but the first of my family to be chosen for a scholarship, and I could not be prouder. This scholarship will help me pay for the out-of-pocket expenses that my student loans do not cover to continue working toward my Bachelor of Science in psychology.” – Nicole Kozma, Dearborn Heights, Michigan

“When I first heard about this scholarship, it was a new thing to me. It made me feel, as a first-generation college student, special but also important. It made me feel seen even when I felt unnoticed. It helped me in many ways. It helped bring more motivation toward graduating, helped put something toward my tuition and overall helped me be so much more grateful for everything. Thank you to Purdue Global for recognizing every first-generation student and helping them along this journey. I am a single mother to my son who will be 5 years old soon. I know I’m an inspiration and role model for him as I do my best in school, even when times are tough. All parents who are also students are amazing role models for their children and any student, parent or not, should be proud of how far they have come. An additional thank you to my mother and my son for being my biggest supporters and the reason behind my motivation.” – Marissa Matukaitis, Mount Carmel, Pennsylvania

“This scholarship means that I am supported and thankful for every opportunity provided to me though Purdue Global. It will help me in my studies by making my dreams of actually achieving my goals a reality and keeping my GPA higher than 3.5 while focusing on how the university has been able to help me complete my degree. Thank you to all of the staff and everyone who has shown the utmost integrity to myself and other students while sticking to our scholastic goals. That means everything to have their support.” – Adi Reich, San Diego

“This scholarship grants me the opportunity to pay down some of my student loan, creating a greater opportunity for me to complete my degree program. I am very thankful to have been selected to receive this scholarship. This contest is a reflection that anything is possible when you try. When I first became aware of this competition, I was a little skeptical because of the large number of students who would submit their stories. Nevertheless, I adopted the same attitude I took when deciding to go back to school: I went for it despite the odds. The only way to positively always fail 100% of the time is to not try at all. I took my chances, and it paid off. I would like to thank everyone involved for selecting my story and for all the opportunities this university has provided to me.” – Giorgio Russo, Miami

“The Purdue Global First-Generation Scholarship means that I am breaking barriers in my family. I might be the first, but my children could be the next generation to go to college. Being the first means I am the ancestor who changed having a college degree from being a huge obstacle to being something attainable. It also means that I am being supported by the school I chose, which is important.” – Stormy Speirs, Rowland Heights, California

“Being awarded this scholarship was a true surprise and a blessing at the same time. Since joining Purdue Global, I started as a business major. A few terms ago, I changed to psychology and recently found out that I was one class short of being able to have a business fundamentals micro-credential. This scholarship will be perfect to help out with me getting that. I am so happy, thankful and shocked to have been chosen to receive this scholarship. As a first-generation college student, I always thought that I could never do it financially. Opportunities like this make school worth it, and I recommend anyone in the same position to always continue looking forward. You never know when a special opportunity like this will come along and assist you when you least expect it.” – Zach Weitzel, Macungie, Pennsylvania

About Purdue Global

Purdue Global delivers personalized online education tailored to the unique needs of adults who have work or life experience beyond the classroom, enabling them to develop essential academic and professional skills with the support and flexibility they need to achieve their career goals. It offers personalized paths for students to earn an associate, bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree, based on their work experience, desired pace, military service, previous college credits and other considerations – no matter where they are in their life journey. Purdue Global is a nonprofit, public university accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. It is affiliated with Purdue University’s flagship institution, a highly ranked public research university located in West Lafayette, Indiana. Purdue University also operates regional campuses in Fort Wayne and Northwest Indiana, as well as serving science, engineering and technology students at the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) campus. For more information, visit

Writer: Tom Schott,

Media Contact: Matthew Oates,

Sources: Frank Dooley

Amy Hawkinson

Lynn Massenzio

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