First Generation Student

First Generation College Student

My name is Donald Benamna and I am a student athlete in my senior year at the University of Central Arkansas, majoring in Health Education. I was born and raised in the Central Africa Republic. I came to the U.S. when I was twelve years old. My family and I moved to the U.S for a better living environment, opportunities, and education.

Growing up, soccer has always been my passion. I started playing soccer when I was five back in my home country. When I moved to the U.S., I started school in Maryland as an eighth-grader. At the time, it was very difficult for me to communicate because of the language barrier.  With the support of mentors, coaches and teachers I was able to learn English through hard work and determination.  When I started high school I began to feel comfortable and that is when my life started to change.

As a first generation student my main focus was to get a high school education and then earn money to help support my family. College was never part of my plan originally. In high school I had an amazing high school soccer coach who became like a father to me. By my junior year of high school people around me like my high school soccer coach as well as club team coaches, and others began to impress upon me the need to go to college.

College was not something that was realistic for me because financially I knew that my parents could never afford to send me. My coaches told me that with my soccer skills, I could get a college education through an athletic scholarship. I was playing high school soccer as well as playing for multiple club teams with the hopes that other coaches would see me and I would get opportunities to continue my education. School has never been easy for me but I was determined to make a better life for myself and soccer gave me that opportunity. I strongly believe if it was not for my high school coach, club team and other people who gave me their love and support I would not have ever considered going to college.

San Diego State took an interest in me and started talking to me about playing on their soccer team. I was able to get an athletic scholarship. After a short time at San Diego State I transferred to UCA because they offered me a full ride. This was a dream come true for me and my family.

Going to UCA and working to get my degree in Health Science was something I never thought could happen while playing the sport I love, soccer. There were a lot of commitments, promises and guarantees made to me as I was being recruited to attend the University of Central Arkansas for its men's soccer program. As I shared my honesty to the coaches I wanted to make sure they understood my situation in terms of joining the program. The UCA coach was aware I had two more years left to get my bachelor’s degree. A full scholarship was offered by the coach so that I could earn my degree and he assured me they would make sure I graduate within two years from University of Central Arkansas.

I was injured this year playing soccer and at the end of season was told my scholarship was not being renewed. I truly believed that when it was all laid out on the table about my injury and inability to play the last few games they would reconsider. I did everything the coaches asked of me and everything I could to fulfill my responsibilities to the team and the school. I gave more than 100% in my efforts as I have always done and I contributed to the team ultimately winning the championship.

I appealed the decision but loss. My parents cannot afford to pay for my last semester. I had hopes through appealing the decision made by UCA that I could finish college but that is not possible without financial assistance.

I have one more semester to finish my degree including taking three summer classes and three classes this fall. My family and I do not have any other resources for me to finish my education. I am in a situation where I have no other way to finish my education. I have applied for other financial aid but have not received any.

I greatly need and appreciate anything you can donate to help me fund my final semester of education at UCA. I have until mid-May to pay for my summer tuition for (3) summer classes which will be approximately $4500 for room, board and credit hours. I have (3) classes in the fall as well to finish up. 

I have exhausted all options and need a helping hand. My family and I do not have any other resources.

My education is the key to my future, which is currently in jeopardy.  My education is something I am very serious about. I am the first generation in my family to attend college with the opportunity to get my bachelors in Health Education. 

I am a person with strong leadership qualities and a kind heart.  My future goals are to work for a non-profit organization so that I can help others. My life has not been easy but I always try to stay positive and put my best foot forward to ensure success. I want to be successful in everything that I do but I know that is not always possible. Even in my failures I still strive to be a better person and learn.

Thank you all for taking time to read my story and hope you will find it in your heart to donate whatever you can.



Donald Benamna
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Donald Benamna 
Conway, AR
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