The Opportunity Scholars program has given students immense support, financial aid and guidance for more than 20 years and continues to grow each year. At the end of each semester, the program celebrates its graduating students at a luau.

This semester’s luau began with a speech by Michelle Kaufusi, the newly elected mayor of Provo city. As a first-generation student herself, Kaufusi experienced many of the challenges common throughout the Opportunity Scholars program. She began working at a young age and had to overcome financial obstacles in order to excel in higher education. Furthermore, she had to endure social and cultural barriers in order to become the first female mayor in Provo history. Although she did not necessarily fit into or grow up in the typical Provo life, she was able to prove she was qualified to be the mayor of the city and defeat the odds through dedication and hard work.

Similar to Kaufusi’s message, many of this semester’s graduates spoke about how they often felt like they did not belong in higher education due to the obstacles they faced as a first-generation student. For many, these obstacles included financial uncertainty, having to figure out college on their own and more. Despite these challenges, the graduates all spoke about how they overcame these challenges and how they are seeing the rewards of their efforts already. By staying strong, believing in themselves and utilizing their resources at the Eccles School, they were able to create a better life for themselves and their families. As a result, they ended their thoughts by advising younger Opportunity Scholars to believe in what they are doing knowing they are making an impact and knowing they belong here at the Eccles School.

To finish off the luau celebration, the program enjoyed catering from Moki’s and live cultural performances featuring students in the Opportunity Scholars program. What is amazing about this semi-annual tradition is that it beautifully sums up every wonderful part of this program — diversity, community, achievement and scholarship. As Dean Taylor Randall has always said, the Eccles Experience is for everyone, and many of the students in this program would not be here without the financial aid they have received through this program. Each of them deserves to be here and works hard every single day to combat the obstacles of being a first-generation student.

By fostering and nurturing this diverse community, Opportunity Scholars leaders Rich Kaufusi and Latu Kinikini and the Eccles School have made it possible for first-generation students like these graduates to become part of something greater, excel in higher education and drastically change their lives for the better.

Once again, congratulations to all of this semester’s Opportunity Scholar graduates!

We wish all of the graduates the best of luck in all of their future endeavors!

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