This year’s Albert Appouh Diversity Merit Scholarship goes to Lucas Reis. Established in 2017 by Rutgers University–Newark alumnus Albert Appouh, the annual merit-based scholarship provides financial assistance to a minority student with a grade point average of at least 3.5 who demonstrates exceptional leadership and performs outstanding service to the Rutgers-Newark and city of Newark communities. The scholarship targets individuals who have disabilities, are military veterans, are LGBTQ, or are considered non-traditional undergraduate students (e.g., over age 25, single parents, etc.). Appouh, who graduated in 2017 from the Honors College with a dual major in Math and Economics, benefitted from scholarships while he was a student and established this fund in order to give back. “It’s an honor and privilege to give back to next generation of RU-N students,” says Appouh. “Others have provided me with so many academic and financial opportunities over the years. It’s the least I can do to help others in need.”
A native of Brazil who currently resides in Barnegat, New Jersey, Reis served in the United States Marine Corps for four years, stationed at Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina, and Camp Hansen in Okinawa, Japan. Reis rose to the rank of sergeant, in charge of 12 Marines and responsible for more than $1.5 million worth of equipment and gear. During his time as section chief in the military, he earned the prestigious status of Top Gun, a competition that recognizes the best cannon crew of the entire regiment.
After receiving an honorable discharge in June 2019, Reis entered Rutgers-Newark three months later as a freshman in the School of Criminal Justice. He aspires to follow in the footsteps of his uncle who served in the military in Brazil and later became a law enforcement officer there. Reis plans to take the same career path in the United States.
“I was ready for a new challenge,” said Reis, who admitted to being nervous about college initially. “I was an older student and wasn’t sure how well I would fit in with classmates who would be coming straight from high school.” Like so many Rutgers-Newark students and alumni, he is the first in his family to attend a four-year college.
Reis quickly learned that the postsecondary educational environment mimicked the military’s in many ways. “Your level of discipline and dedication determines your degree of success. The harder you work, the easier it becomes over time,” Reis shared.
Reis also observed that Rutgers-Newark looked and felt much like the military. “Similar to the military, Rutgers-Newark has so many different cultures. Coming from another country, it is especially important to find a place where you fit in instantaneously.” Reis explained his reticence to speak much when he first immigrated to the United States because English was not his first language. The military helped him to gain confidence in his communication skills, and Rutgers-Newark’s diversity has empowered him to be his authentic self.
When Reis is not delving into his studies, he can be found helping students who struggle with the material, especially veterans. “When I have a chance, it’s good to go to the Veteran’s Affairs lounge and talk to other veterans and see if anyone needs extra help. It’s a great way to stay engaged.”