Scholarships Open Doors

Samia and Miller scholars share how donor generosity makes college journey possible

Samia Naming Ceremony Suffolk University celebrates Leonard J. Samia and family at the naming celebration and dedication ceremony for the Leonard J. Samia Academic Center

Interviews conducted by Jennifer Becker

Through remarkable acts of generosity have transformed the lives of hundreds of Suffolk University students. The Bert J. Samia and Nathan R. Miller scholars programs support and empower motivated students showing academic promise and financial need who might not otherwise be able to attend Suffolk.

Leonard J. Samia, BSBA ’69, established the Bert J. Samia Memorial Centennial Scholarship Fund in his father’s honor. This scholarship for students is funded by his historic $10 million gift to the University. Samia Scholars enjoy the opportunity to meet with their benefactor each semester.

Suffolk University Magazine spoke with a few of the students whose educations and lives have been indelibly changed by these scholarships.


Jocelyn De Paz 
> Jocelyn De Paz

Biology Major, Health Careers Concentration/Women’s & Gender Studies Minor, Class of 2022

I honestly cried when I found out I was a Samia Scholar. During my junior year in high school, my younger brother was diagnosed with cancer. He was in treatment for about a year, so my parents no longer had the funds for my schooling. The entire financial burden fell into my hands ... Mr. Samia helped me step foot onto campus as a first-generation student.

I want to get as much education as possible to be a women’s health advocate. [She wants to become an obstetrician/gynecologist or practice family medicine.] It would be amazing if I could utilize my knowledge to help women in my community and all around the world. This is the reason I declared my minor in women and gender studies. I find it important to not just focus on being a doctor but also becoming a voice for social justice. For me, it is truly about helping as many people as possible.

David Fernandez 
> David Fernandez

Global Business Major, Class of 2023

I am from Leon, Nicaragua. I finished my last semester of high school online after I moved to Woburn due to social-political problems in Nicaragua. Since I was a kid, one of my dreams has been to study in the United States. ... I am very interested in learning how business works around the world, and I would like to work at Walmart headquarters. After all, it’s the biggest international company, and I could have the opportunity to work in different countries.

Living in the center of Boston is the most incredible thing that has ever happened to me ... with my Samia Scholarship, I was able to live in Smith Hall—where I met most of my close friends—and live the college life.

Trevor Rafferty 
> Trevor Rafferty

Politics, Philosophy and Economics Major, Class of 2022

I have always dreamed of being in a career where I could help people. … I thought that being a public defender, or another type of lawyer, would be a really great career for me, and Suffolk has such a great history of developing politically conscious students.

Mr. Samia’s continued generosity has made it possible for me to come here in the first place, and to stay enrolled.

It has been a rewarding experience for me to be an RA here; I have met a lot of people and refined my skill as a leader, and I learned how to interact with people better. Also being here for the Red Sox World Series parade was unbelievable!

Cheryl Aikins 
> Cheryl Aikins

Finance Major/Business Law Minor, Class of 2023

I wanted to attend Suffolk but was worried about how my family and I would cover the costs. The Samia Scholarship eased my troubles and financial restrictions. I cannot thank the Samia family enough for that.

In my eyes, I was blessed with an incredible opportunity to attend Suffolk. I love Suffolk because it is an institution that promotes diversity and inclusion at all levels. I would like to become a civil rights attorney in the near future. I believe my degree in finance will also aid me greatly if I ever decide to open up my own law firm or business. The only way to pay it forward is to do my best academically.


The Miller Scholars program, named for the late philanthropist Nathan R. Miller, HDCS ’03, is focused on graduates of Boston Public and public charter high schools. Recipients attend monthly seminars in their first year that increase their awareness of University resources promoting student success and commit to a semester of community service.

Nathan Miller’s philanthropic support of educational values at Suffolk University continues today through his daughter and son-in-law, Barbara and Peter Sidel.

Dahlia Elamin 
> Dahlia Elamin

Biology Major, Class of 2022

My Miller scholarship was the best news of my life! I am the oldest sibling and the first to go through the American college process in my family, so it was very exciting.

The Miller Scholarship program helped me connect with other Boston Public Schools students [at Suffolk], which helped me fit in better. That is one thing I was worried about. I want to become a pediatrician. I even completed my community service at MGH in the radiation therapy center.

Nicole Oliveira 
> Nicole Oliveira

Psychology Major/Law Minor, Class of 2021

The fact that I received the Nathan R. Miller Scholarship allowed me to further my education at Suffolk.

I have been very interested in law since about sixth grade. There are so many paths and so many different types of careers you can have within it—so many different opportunities to help people. I had planned to go to law school immediately after graduating from Suffolk. I have now decided that I would like to take at least a year off and work as a paralegal. In fact, I am currently taking courses to earn Suffolk’s paralegal certificate and am on track to complete it at the same time as my degree.

Diana Pena 
> Diana Pena

Management Major/Public Relations Minor, Class of 2022

The Miller Scholars Program made me feel more welcome.

I bonded really well with one of the advising coaches, Lani Varga. She helped me plan out the rest of my years and helped me choose a major.

At first, I was super nervous, and didn’t want to participate in anything right away.

But I pushed myself and joined four clubs—the Commuter Student Council, Caribbean Students Network, Black Student Union, and Pasión Latina. I even ended up on the e-board for Pasión Latina, which made me feel super accomplished.

Andrea Taylor 
> Andrea Taylor

Public Relations Major, Class of 2021

I was born and raised in Pordenone, a small town in Italy. As an international student whose first language isn’t English, it’s hard sometimes to share your opinion because you’re a little afraid others will judge you. Being with my fellow scholars has made me feel much more confident. The Nathan R. Miller Scholarship has helped me find my voice at Suffolk and shown me that my opinions and thoughts do matter.

Being part of the Nathan R. Miller Scholars program has made me believe more in myself and made me feel that other people believe in me. Because of that, I don’t want to let them down. So, I push myself every day as hard as I can.

Adriana Farrell 
> Adriana Farrell

Sociology Major, Crime & Justice Concentration, Class of 2023

As a struggling college student, it is a weight off my shoulders knowing that I do not need to worry about paying for fees. It lets me save my money I earn from working. It is truly a blessing to receive this scholarship. My family and I are beyond grateful.

Suffolk was my top school, and I was saddened that I wouldn’t be able to afford it. Thankfully, the full scholarship letter came.

I found a club—the Video Gamer Army—and have met people who are just like me. I love it! I go there in between classes to relieve stress. I did not realize how much work I would have to put into these classes when I first started college. I plan to go into law enforcement and am mainly interested in lab work and figuring out what happened at crime scenes.

Suffolk University Magazine

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