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Tragedy Changed Student's Prescription for Life

BY JOHN THOMASON

Barthelmy Metelus and Feroza Sircar-Ramsewak

By the time Barthelmy Metelus graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering in 2008, he was already a success. He had arrived in the United States with a work permit and $1,000 in cash, but didn't speak a word of English. The fourth of six children, raised in an impoverished neighborhood in Haiti, he became the first in his family to attend and then graduate from college, paying for his education by working two jobs.

But it took a tragic event for Metelus to find his true calling. When the earthquake struck Haiti in 2010, the daughter of Metelus’ cousin was one of the casualties, and he couldn't stop watching the disaster footage on TV. “I felt powerless; there was nothing I could do to help," said Metelus, 32. “I did try to help those who were close to me in Haiti by sending money and food, but I felt like I should have been there. I saw on TV that they had so much medication there, but they didn't have anybody to distribute the medication," he said. "Pharmacists are lacking in Haiti. I thought, maybe that’s something I could do. That became my main goal."

So Metelus enrolled as a Pharm.D. graduate student at NSU's Palm Beach Campus, hoping to eventually share his expertise with his homeland and other developing countries in need. Lacking a green card and unable to secure financial aid because of his immigration status, Metelus continued working two jobs: as an adult education coordinator at South Tech Academy in Boynton Beach and as a chemistry tutor at Palm Beach Stare College.

But after two years, the financial strain became too much to bear on his own. “After my second year, I told a friend that I was going to take a break for a year so I could work two full-time jobs to save money, and then continue the third year,” said Metelus. “It was too much for me, trying to come up with $30,000 every year.”

This year, NSU's Student Scholarship Committee - inspired by Metelus’ work ethic and story - came to the rescue, awarding him its Pharmacy Chancellor Scholarship, which will be sufficient to cover half his tuition. It will still be an uphill battle for Metelus to raise the other half of his tuition, but he is now on track to graduate in 2016.

Metelus continues working his two jobs in addition to his latest position, as a pharmacy intern at a local Walgreen's. His schedule doesn't leave much time for a social life, and he goes to bed late and wakes up early.

Invaluable instruction from NSU professors helps him meet the challenge of pharmacy school, he said, crediting David Gazze, Ph.D.; Mohammad S. Shawaqfeh, Pharm.D., Ph.D.; Nile Khanfar, M.B.A, Ph.D.;  Nathan Unger, Pharm.D.; and Feroza Sircar­Ramsewak , M.S., Pharm.D.

Metelus also is grateful to the scholarship committee for securing his educational future, and those of others like him. “The scholarship has helped me so much, and I believe there are others like me who will need help. Their money is not going to waste. It’s doing something noble," he said.

SCHOLARSHIP INFORMATION

The NSU Chancellor's Scholarship is among the numerous scholarship opportunities the College of Pharmacy can offer its students with high academic achievement and/or financial need. For more information on the availability of scholarships, email PHSS@nova.edu.

To read more inspiring stories, establish a Changing lives Scholarship, or establish a permanent source of scholarships through an endowed fund, visit www.nova.edu/giving

Read more student and faculty profiles in the Spring 2015 issue of Horizons Magazine.

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