BOCA RATON, Fla. — Rising tuition costs can place a huge burden on families and students, and one local couple is working to lessen the load by empowering future generations.
Diego Gama and his family came to the United States from Brazil when he was in middle school.
"When we got here people stole our money, a lot of the funds that we had for living here," he said.
He and his family worked hard and got back on their feet. Gama graduated from high school and went on to attend Florida Atlantic University, where he is about to graduate with a degree in computer science.
"I want to become a pediatric nurse practitioner,” Jude Saincyr said. “That is my goal."
Saincyr, 19, came to the U.S. from Haiti after the tragic earthquake in her country in 2010. She lost family members, persevered through her pain and now she’s a freshman at FAU.
Gama and Saincyr are able to go to college thanks to the Eda & Cliff Viner Community Scholars Foundation.
"We provide very substantial financial assistance four-year scholarship that allows our students to graduate debt free,” Cliff Viner said. “Number two we have an intensive mentorship program so that the students stay on track and graduate."
Gama and Saincyr lean on their mentors.
"Well, there comes a time in college life where you struggle with classes, that's for every student,” Gama said. “And my mentor, he kept me strong, and kept me going on, you know don't give up in classes."
"Everything is going better than I thought,” Saincyr said. “Everything is going smoothly. I'm figuring out my way, what to do, how much I can take and how much to hold back on."
The foundation said 130 students are currently enrolled in the scholarship program.
"We are very lucky to have what we have, and we want to pay it forward," Eda Viner said.
The goal of the program is to give back to local students in the community.
"Part of the purpose of the program was to educate these students that are local and since they go to Florida public universities and colleges," Cliff Viner said, "they are more likely to come back and make the community that much better."
For Gama and Saincyr, the money means they won't have to worry about debt once they get their degree.
"If it wasn't' for them, I would not have thought of anything dealing with college," Saincyr said.
"I was able to fund all of my classes and never have to worry about it," Gama said.
The foundation said they are happy to be able to help students achieve their goals.
"It's just so rewarding for us," Eda Viner said. "I think the kids really appreciate it that we are doing it for them, but I think we are selfish, and we are doing it for us."