First-Generation Students Soar, Thanks to Expanded UMass Lowell Program

River Hawks Scholars Academy Offers Career Prep Workshops


Media contacts: Emily Gowdey-Backus, director of media relations, and Nancy Cicco, assistant director of media relations,

First-generation college students soar, thanks to expanded UMass Lowell program

New career readiness programs for UMass Lowell students enrolled in the university’s River Hawk Scholars Academy are helping them prepare for their professional lives. 

Launched in 2017, the RHSA provides academic and support services to enhance educational, campus and community experiences for full-time UMass Lowell students who are the first in their families to attend college. Forty percent of UMass Lowell undergraduates are first-generation students. To date, more than 1,500 of them have benefited from the RHSA. 

Originally designed to serve freshmen and sophomores, this year, through a $500,000 federal grant and other funding, the RHSA expanded to serve juniors and seniors with its Pathways to Careers program. In tandem with UMass Lowell’s Career and Co-op Center, the program prepares participants to move on to graduate school or step into the workforce. Workshops offered include sessions on job interviewing and résumé writing, networking and understanding business attire and etiquette. Students are also required to attend a UMass Lowell career fair and conduct career-related interviews with three people from the UMass Lowell community.

“With Pathways to Career, RHSA is now poised to provide even more chances for our first-generation students to successfully move into their careers with confidence. This is only the beginning of RHSA’s increased focus on career readiness and our students’ lives after they graduate. We have no doubt they are going to do RHSA and UMass Lowell proud,” said Matthew Hurwitz, RHSA’s director and associate teaching professor of English.

Jamilet Amoguea got a leg up navigating campus life at UMass Lowell in her first two years as an RHSA member. Now that she is a junior, the psychology major form Revere, Massachusetts, said the Pathways to Career program is helping her plan for her future. 

“It’s especially helpful for first-generation college students, because a lot of things are new for us,” Amoguea said of the yearlong program. “I feel like there’s a lot of pressure put on college students to have everything mapped out in their first or second year. This will help me try to figure out where I’m going from here.”

Arthur Rosa, a computer science major from Everett, Massachusetts, says he signed up for the program to keep himself on track for finding a career that will allow him to help people. 

Being part of a cohort of first-generation students “helps drive me forward due to the support of my peers,” he said. “Seeing my peers from all different backgrounds strive for their career, even if it’s tough, inspires me to do the same.”

Yaritza Gil-Javier, a criminal justice major from Lawrence, Massachusetts, signed up as soon as she saw the email from RHSA.

“I’ve struggled with what I want to do with my career,” said Gil-Javier, who explored options in forensics and law enforcement before discovering an interest in homeland security through her coursework.

“This program is definitely going to help me decide what I want to do. Hopefully, I can network and make new connections,” she said.

UMass Lowell is a national research university offering its students bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in business, education, engineering, fine arts, health, humanities, sciences and social sciences. UMass Lowell delivers high-quality educational programs and personal attention from leading faculty and staff, all of which prepare graduates to be leaders in their communities and around the globe.