A Twist of Fate Changed Her Life

Junior Jacqueline Moreno won a major scholarship that will allow her to do research and focus on her studies.

For the last few years, Jacqueline Moreno has worked two jobs: one in the Campus Center and another at a local movie theater. She uses her pay checks to cover her tuition. Her father can’t work -- he’s ill -- and her mother works in a factory. The family has four children, with Jacqueline being the oldest child. It’s been hard for her to work all those hours and to excel in school -- she’s a junior majoring in chemical engineering and has a 3.5 GPA. 

But now, with one simple twist of fate, her burden will be lifted.

Jacqueline won a Robert Sydney Needham Memorial STEM Scholarship, an award that supports NJIT students who study science, technology, engineering or math (STEM).

The $38,000 scholarship not only covers her tuition, room and board but also includes a research stipend. That stipend will pay for her to do research at NJIT. The award recognizes low-income students who are graduates of New Jersey high schools, have GPAs higher than 3.0 and are active in community service. She has volunteered to help shore towns ravaged by Hurricane Sandy and also volunteers at her local church, where she helps children from poor families.

“I’m so grateful for this scholarship,” said Jacqueline. “I can stop working so much and not have to worry about paying all my bills. I can just focus on studying and doing research. It’s such a huge relief for me.”

At NJIT, she belongs to the Educational Opportunity Program, (EOP), which helps minority and low-income students excel in college. And she recently became a McNair scholar, a program that prepares underrepresented students for doctoral study by, among other things, giving them the chance to do research at NJIT. Jacqueline intends to start a research project in the field of pharmaceutical engineering.

“I want to work on research that will help as many people as possible,” she said, “such as helping to develop a new drug to treat a disease.”

Jacqueline gets her strong work ethic from her parents, who left Mexico for America -- the family lives in Passaic -- so that she and her three siblings could have better lives. Her parents never had the chance to attend college: Her father was one of 10 children who lost his mother when he was a boy and had to work to support the family. And her mother came from a family who believed that women should cook and clean the house, not have professions.

“My whole motivation is to make my parents proud, to make them see that I appreciate all they’ve done for me,” she said.

After she graduates from NJIT and is working, Jacqueline hopes to help her parents financially and to buy them a house, so that they can live in a safe town and not have to worry about the constant influx of bills. 

“I want them to know that all their hard work was for a good reason -- that I’ll do well in life,” says Jacqueline. “Winning this scholarship will help me to do well at NJIT and beyond. That’s why I’m so grateful to have it.”

By Robert Florida