Heartfelt appreciation from students and encouraging words of support from donors filled an hour of virtual space this week during the UCF College of Engineering and Computer Science’s annual Scholarships Reception, a time-honored tradition that gives donors a unique opportunity to meet the students they’ve helped, and the recipients a chance to thank them.

The Sept. 22 event – held virtually this year because of the pandemic – brought together donors and scholars who made meaningful connections and celebrated the generosity that plays such a vital role in student success.

This year, the college awarded $154,250 to 105 students, out of a pool of 2,218 individual scholarship applications.

“During the tough times of 2020, supporting engineering and computer science students with the gift of scholarships is more important than ever,” said Michael Georgiopoulos, dean, College of Engineering and Computer Science. “We thank all of our donors for their generosity in establishing and donating to more than 100 scholarships available in our college. Every donation brings our best and brightest students closer to achieving their academic dreams.”

Scholarships are funded by individuals, families, organizations and corporations. CECS Alumni Chapter Board chairperson Sara Rogers ’00, electrical engineering, thanked donors for acknowledging the importance of helping the next generation of engineers and scientists realize their dreams and aspirations.

“The cost of education can be daunting or simply out of reach for many,” Rogers said. “In addition to tuition, figuring out how to afford expenses such as room and board, books and transportation can create additional stressors. These stressors are distractions to classes, homework and projects, which may ultimately result in lower grades or student drop out.”

Denielle Abaquita, a junior studying computer science, is a two-time recipient of the CECS Alumni Endowment Scholarship. As the student speaker of the event, he shared that his scholarship gave him the opportunity to study abroad in Mexico through Burnett Honors College during his sophomore year. This year, he used his scholarship to purchase textbooks, access codes for online materials and a laptop.

Scholarship recipient Denielle Abaquita

“With COVID, there’s been so much uncertainty and people have been struggling left and right. Some students have especially been hit hard,” Abaquita said. “With the scholarships through CECS, knowing that we have financial assistance for expected and unexpected challenges is really reassuring.”

Mehul Patel, a senior pursuing a dual major in aerospace engineering and mechanical engineering, received a scholarship from Duke Energy. He said the funds students receive enable them to become better engineers, which in turn helps others in the community as well.

“A lot of students are using this money, using this initiative, this opportunity to better themselves, but at the same time, we’re going to lift others as we climb,” he said.

Ali Shahnami ’81 ‘95MS, electrical engineering, a UCF Alumni Board member who has served as a mentor, senior design judge and donor, spoke of his desire to build a legacy and continue to help UCF students.

“I want to be there as much I can for our students,” he said. “Whenever I get chance, I hire interns when I can. I enjoy that immensely because it only comes back our university, our community and our state.”

Pictured above: CECS Alumni Chapter board chairperson Sara Rogers ’00, electrical engineering.

STUDENTS: Applications for 2021-2022 CECS scholarships will be accepted from Nov. 1, 2020 through Feb. 1, 2021. Detailed information about available scholarships is posted online at http://cecs.ucf.edu/current-students/scholarships

DONORS: To establish a scholarship fund or to make a donation towards an existing scholarship, contact Sean Farrell in the College of Engineering and Computer Science at 407-823-1570 or email Sean.Farrell@ucf.edu.