By: Marisa Herman Associate Editor
Michel Issac and Reggie Elie say if it wasn’t for an after school program called PROPEL, they would not have received a full scholarship to Florida Atlantic University.
Both students are from Haiti and first-generation, low-income college students.
Elie said his dream was to attend FAU.
And when he got accepted, he said he knew he didn’t have enough money to go.
It was his mentor at PROPEL, which stands for People Reaching Out to Provide Education and Leadership, Gregg Francis, who told him not to worry — there would be a way for him to attend his dream school.
“He wanted me to live the college life and for my dream to come true,” Elie said of Francis. “All he wanted me to do was graduate high school. He said, ‘graduating high school is just the beginning.’”
Francis told him about the Kelly/Strul Emerging Scholars Program, which provides full grant and scholarship financial aid packages, as well as comprehensive support programs to ensure students thrive at Florida Atlantic University.
The program pays for tuition, on-campus housing for four years and provides recipients with mentors and resources to help them succeed. The overall goal is for graduates to end their college years debt-free.
Through The Path, supplementary tools, including career planning, mentoring and financial literacy, among others, are provided to prepare recipients for successful collegiate careers and meaningful post-graduate lives.
The program recently awarded 20 of FAU’s 2022 class students with the scholarship. The program was created by FAU President John Kelly and first lady Carolyn Kelly, along with Boca Raton philanthropists Aubrey and Sally Strul.
“Some of Florida’s most talented high school graduates accepted to Florida Atlantic University will never step foot on campus,” said Co-Founder John Kelly. “Not because they lack desire or are unwilling to work hard for a college education, but simply because they can’t afford it.”
A former first-generation student, Strul understands the crippling burden of school debt and actively works to build the fund. To help catapult the program, the Struls gifted an initial investment of $1 million.
The program was launched last year and granted full scholarships to four students.
“Getting picked for this scholarship is a big thing,” Elie said.
He moved to South Florida from Haiti when he was 9 years old.
“I didn’t know any English,” he said.
But, he knew he had to help his mom. So, he got a job when he was 10 at the barbershop where he got his hair cut.
“Every day after school, even on the weekends, I would go to the barbershop and sweep the floors,” he said. “That’s how I started helping my mom make money. She couldn’t speak English. A bunch of times I felt like giving up.”
Michael Issac also moved to South Florida from Haiti and didn’t know how to speak English.
He said he was placed in seventh grade because of his age, but he began falling behind and struggling because he didn’t know the language.
He began to improve his grades in high school and eventually with help from PROPEL began doing well in school.
He performed well enough to get into FAU.
He said without the scholarship, he wouldn’t have gone to FAU. He would have enrolled in Palm Beach State.
“I came a long way,” he said. “I am blessed. Right now, it is my time. I have to take advantage of all of the stuff I am getting. It’s my time to shine.”
For more information or to make a donation, visit kellystrulscholars.fau.edu/give/ or call 561-297-4897.