James Ha’s parents instilled in him a hunger for a life bigger than they had known. As Vietnamese immigrants with very little education, his parents worked hard most of their lives to get to America, in search of greater opportunity for their children. There was never any question that their American born son would attend college but, with soaring tuition costs, they worried if they could afford it.
Coca-Cola First-Generation Scholarship program at the University of Alabama made it possible for Ha to pursue what his parents could not; a college education. It opened the window of hope he so badly needed. Now a rising senior in Management Information Systems, Ha says this scholarship made it possible to fulfill his families’ dreams.
“I had never heard (of) anything like it,” Ha says, recalling his search for potential scholarship options. Being an Alabama resident, having at least a 3.0 grade average, and coming from an immediate family who did not attend college made him eligible to apply.
Since 1993, The
Lori Billingsley, vice president, Community Relations for The
According to UA program coordinator Erika Imbody, their program succeeds because it gives students more than money. “We set the stage for their success,”
she says. “Our program is set up as a support system and we have campus-wide support for our students.”
From the very beginning, the program is designed to establish three things: 1) Students work together; 2) They must get involved on campus; and 3) Service is mandatory.
“These are some of the most determined, committed students I have ever met,” notes Imbody. She says students are often motivated to change their family tree, and set an example for younger siblings or cousins.
“They’re some of the best students on campus,” Imbody adds.
UA President Dr. Judy Bonner says the program has filled a void on their campus. “The
James Ha is grateful that the
“It’s incredible, it’s not like any other scholarship program that you get for having a certain standardized test score," he says. "You really feel like you’re part of a group. It gave me a support network that helped me out in situations where I might have been lost.”