Danelia Ramirez Aguilar, a second year student at UMass Lowell, is a River Hawk Scholars Academy (RHSA) Peer Leader, a position in which she mentors first-generation college students in their first year. A first-generation college student herself, Danelia holds a number of roles within the RHSA, including a position within a student-led focus group initiative for RHSA students. Danelia also seeks to make a difference off campus. She has, in the past, volunteered to mentor Cambodian-American children in Lowell through a local nonprofit, the Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association. Recently, she visited her grandmother's native country of Honduras and, using her own limited funds, repaired the facilities and taught at the school her grandmother founded. Though her grandmother has since passed away, Danelia vows to keep her legacy and the school operational. To that end, she recently started her own charity, 14 Stars Foundation, to support the children at the school and ensure their education continues.
Helping students who have gone through similar things as me has always been my passion. Throughout high school, I taught English to those who had recently emigrated to the U.S. While doing extracurricular activities, I always made time to support my mentees and help make their transition be more manageable. When I started my journey at UMass Lowell, I received ample support from the River Hawk Scholars Academy (RHSA), which is a support program for first generation college students. Now, as a peer leader for the RHSA, I mentor students, connect them to campus resources, provide academic and personal advice as well as attend and prepare RHSA events for them. I have connected my work in Massachusetts back to my roots in Honduras, the country my grandmother raised me in. This past summer I focused on teaching and mentoring kindergartners, who were the first in their family to attend school. I have several things in common with these children as a first generation student: financial struggle, difficulty with classroom assimilation, and lack of academic support. As a result, I started 14 Stars which is a foundation that seeks to help kindergartners around Honduras with essential school supplies and uniforms.