Volusia County, Florida – Stetson University’s goal of creating a more diverse student community has helped some students realize their dreams of graduating from an institution of higher education.
What you need to know
- Nelson Quezada Herrera moved to the United States from El Salvador when he was seven years old
- He holds DACA and recently graduated from Stetson University
- Herrera became the first recipient of a Diversity Fellowship award from the American Political Science Association
Nelson Quezada Herrera, 23, said it helped him realize the dream his mother and grandmother dreamed of.
“They wish they had the opportunities I had and that’s why I’m so interested in making them proud,” he said.
Herrera came to the United States from El Salvador at the age of seven. Years later, he did DACA and received a full scholarship from Stetson University, a private university in the province of Volusia.
“Since I was young, I knew that completing an education was very important so that I could ensure their financial security and give back for everything they did for me,” Herrera said.
He was helped by political science professor and mentor Dr. Stephen Smallpage.
“I’ve known Nelson for four years, and I had to meet him in my first semester,” Smallbag said.
Smallbag helped Herrera become the first university student to receive a Diversity Fellowship award from the American Political Science Association.
It’s a very, very big deal,” Smallbag said. “There are a lot of deserving candidates across the country, and Nelson being one of them is just a degree – he’s one of the best students we’ve had at Stetson and definitely in the political science department in many years.”
Like Herrera, Hispanic students get their chance to get a higher education. According to the latest data from Stetson, from 2010 to 2015, more than half of Hispanic students graduated from university each year. The university manages to retain approximately 70% of its Hispanic students each year.
“Stetson has really diversified in the past eight years,” Smallpage said. “For us, it’s really refreshing because we enjoy these perspectives and hear them in class.”
“The importance of DACA recipients being able to graduate from college is also very important and something I am really proud of,” Herrera said.
Herrera graduated from Stetson University on May 8.
Herrera plans to pursue a PhD in Political Science at Emory Laney University Graduate School of Atlanta, Georgia this fall.