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Rochelle David '26

To be a first-generation student and American is something Rochelle David ‘26 takes immense pride in.
To be a first-generation student and American is something Rochelle David ‘26 takes immense pride in.
Photo: Jeff Janowski

To be a first-generation student and American is something Rochelle David ‘26 takes immense pride in.

"I recognize that I am in a position of privilege, and it is important to me that I use every opportunity to the best of my ability,” said David, whose parents are from Jamaica and Guyana. “Both sides of my family came to the United States to pursue better opportunities. There were always high expectations regarding academic performance, and attending college was always in my plan."

When David began her college search after graduating from the NC School of Science and Mathematics, she looked for a school that would align with pillars that were important to her—high-quality education, service opportunities, campus culture and resources. 

"UNCW excels in each of these categories,” she recalled. “Another aspect of UNCW I love is that it is a big campus with a little campus feel. It makes it easy to get involved on campus and find people who share your interests."

The university's coastal location was also a selling point. The marine biology major plans to work in the conservation field one day. Being able to pursue a degree and her passion means a lot to David.

"When I was a child, I was obsessed with the ocean, and sea turtles were (and still are) my favorite animal," she said. "In sixth grade, I interviewed Sea Turtle Conservancy, a conservation organization based in Florida, for a project about the endangered status of sea turtles and ways that people could take individual action to protect them. Since then, I have been set on pursuing a degree in the field!"

In 2019, David took part in a trip to Costa Rica, where she volunteered at a sea turtle conservation program. The experience reaffirmed her desire to work in the field.

"The ability to travel abroad at a young age is something I am incredibly grateful for, as I have been able to experience global perspectives and immerse myself in different cultures,” she added.

David, an Honors College student, juggles her studies while finding ways to be involved in the campus community. She is a member of Delta Zeta Sorority, an At-Large Senator in the Student Government Association and a member of the Women's Club Soccer team. She also served as an orientation leader last summer and is the head student manager and student video coordinator for the women’s basketball team. David is also a recipient of the Yousry Sayed Diversity Scholarship.

She encouraged other first-generation students to be bold and ask for help along their academic journey.

"I know that for me, it can be hard getting to the right people or knowing the right questions to ask," she said. "But if you can ask someone, you will get to where, who or what you need. " 

National First-Generation Day is a call to celebrate students, faculty and staff who are the first in their family to pursue a four-year undergraduate degree. November 8 was selected as the date for the annual national first-generation celebration to honor the anniversary of the signing of the Higher Education Act of 1965. Visit UNCW's First-Generation website for more details.