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President's Blog: From the Heart

A Promise Fulfilled

By Eric F. Spina

(This piece appears in the spring 2021 issue of the University of Dayton Magazine.)

"I got accepted to my first graduate school program, and I am feeling so blessed. Dreams really do come true,” tweeted Brianna Gavin.

My heart soared.

When the University of Dayton started the Flyer Promise Scholars program four years ago, we made a commitment to high-achieving, underserved/underrepresented students. With the help of institutional aid and generous private support, we promised that we would eliminate the financial barriers they faced in attending UD and help them fulfill their dream of a college degree. We promised to help prepare them with real-world experiences. We promised to create a sense of belonging so that this campus would feel like their home — and always will. And we promised to see their graduation as a success, not just their matriculation.

Today, of the 42 students in the first class, 40 are on the cusp of graduation. That’s simply a remarkable success rate that speaks to their talent, their determination, and the commitment of those Brianna calls “a second family” — the program’s caring staff who embrace their dreams and help guide them on the academic journey. She describes her fellow students as “brothers and sisters.”

It’s not always an easy transition if you’re a first-generation college student, like Brianna, or are adapting to life on the mainland, like Sergio Gines of Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico, who struggled to juggle classes his first semester while worrying about his family and friends after Hurricane Maria battered the island.

“Thanks to wonderful advisers and a great peer support group, I got back on my feet and continued my journey,” says Sergio, who will serve as an operations management intern for Cargill in Timberville, Virginia, this summer before graduating in December with a degree in industrial engineering technology and a minor in quality assurance.

With 168 students from a dozen partner schools, Flyer Promise boasts a near-perfect retention rate. It demonstrates how we can expand access and opportunity while becoming a more inclusive and diverse campus. And its imprint is distinctly Marianist. From a group of students from various races and backgrounds, these students have blurred the lines of difference and formed a tight-knit family.

This is a special program that offers hope for closing the opportunity gap that too many young people face. I dream of the day when a family’s income level or ZIP code cease to stand in the way of any talented student achieving a University of Dayton degree.

Brianna dreams of the finish line — graduation.

“We have dreamed of this moment since we were all little kids,” says Brianna, a first-generation college student from Brookville, Ohio, who will receive a degree in psychology with minors in biology and criminal justice studies in May. “Before Flyer Promise, college was nothing but a far-fetched dream that only certain people could attain.

“Flyer Promise made it possible for us.”

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