By: Marisa Herman Associate Editor
Aubrey Strul was the first person in his family to go to college. And now the Boca Raton resident, entrepreneur and philanthropist is giving that opportunity to students at Florida Atlantic University.
With help from his wife, Sally, and FAU President John Kelly and First Lady Carolyn Kelly, the foursome created The Kelly/Strul Emerging Scholars Program.
The program provides what Strul calls a “turn-key” college experience awarded to the most talented high school graduates who are accepted into FAU, are the first in their families to attend college and can’t afford the price tag of schooling.
“They have the drive. They have the decency. They have the guts, but the simple truth is they can’t afford an education,” Strul said. “These kids have the grades. They have got it all. They just can’t find a way to compete on a level playing field.”
To make attending college a reality, Strul has donated $1 million to the initial investment of the program.
So far, five students have been selected for the scholarship: Odjeenie Jean-Louis from Miami, majoring in Elementary Education; Isabel Hidalgo from Cooper City, majoring in History; Brenda Gomes from Boca Raton majoring in Biological Anthropology/Pre-Med track with a minor in Spanish; Neasha Prince from Fort Lauderdale majoring in International Business; and Angie Joseph of Naples double majoring in Fine Arts and Economics.
The program dedicates $50,000 per student, which breaks down to $12,500 per year for four years. It is designed to help students with each step of the college process including mentoring, housing, achieving financial literacy, embracing Owl pride, joining student organizations, becoming a mentor, becoming an intern, preparing for graduation and ultimately securing a job.
“I love FAU and am so thrilled to live on campus and get involved with the school. The mentor has been helpful in guiding me and keeping me on track and I’m excited to serve as a mentor to future scholars,” scholarship recipient Jean-Louis said. “I was accepted into both FAU and the University of Florida, but the scholarship made selecting FAU a no-brainer. I’m so happy and grateful to be here.”
By the end of their college experience, students will graduate without any financial burden.
“They are doing amazingly well,” Strul said. “I can’t think of a better way to invest in the future than these kids.”
The idea for the program began at a dinner party. Strul said he was speaking with Carolyn Kelly and they were discussing the amount of students who struggle with the cost of college.
They spent the next year working with FAU to create the Emerging Scholars program. The goal is to attract more donors and raise enough money to help 80 students per year.
“The Program will help students develop valuable college success strategies, build confidence, understand their first-generation identity, connect to peer and professional mentors and access campus resources which prepare them for a successful college career and meaningful post-graduated life,” FAU President John Kelly said in a statement.