Lucas Araujo Ferreira
Lucas Araujo Ferreira

After he had spent much of the morning unloading donated food and clothing to the orphanage in San Paulo, Lucas Araujo Ferreira was invited to a large gathering room to have lunch with the children, all of whom had already survived extreme violence, trauma and finally abandonment in their young lives.

As lunch was served, the children were ecstatic. Ferreira, himself just a high school teenager, was heartbroken. The measly handful of crackers and watered-down juice on the lunch menu had taken him back to a painful time growing up, when his mother struggled on her own to provide for him and his sister in northeast Brazil.

“I could understand,” said Ferreira, who considered himself on equal footing with the orphans until he took steps to immigrate to Florida where he could continue to pursue his career goals at Broward College. “It made me realize that people, even though they had very little, could still be happy.”

These days Ferreira has reason for joy. The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation awarded him a prestigious Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship that will provide him with up to $40,000 annually for a maximum of three years to complete his bachelor’s degree. And that, likely, will be at an elite university of his choosing, once he graduates from Broward College in May with an Associate of Science degree.

Hardships Begins at Birth

Ivy covered walls and campus bell towers will be a far cry from his family roots just an hour’s drive outside San Paulo, where his grandmother earned a paltry wage picking cotton and cutting sugarcane from fields that stretch for hundreds of miles. Ferreira’s own hardship tale began early in life. Living in a rural tenement building his mother and older sister shared with his grandparents and aunt, Ferreira learned not to shy away from hard work and challenges. At 13, he was admitted into a public high school in Brazil that would allow him to study computers applications and, at the same time, get a job to help his family financially. Not long after, his mother remarried and moved to Florida. Ferreira joined her a few years later after he finished school in Brazil and was able to obtain his green card. “I never thought I would leave Brazil,” he said. “But, wow, America was just like in the movies.”

Mission Work in Sri Lanka
Although he could barely keep a conversation in English, Ferreira immersed himself in both a new language and campus life at Broward College. He became president of the Honors Student Committee where he learned of more scholarship and transfer opportunities. He also got involved in student government, founded the international student club and joined a handful of organizations that provided him an avenue to assist disadvantaged children. Those volunteer efforts continued in Sri Lanka, where Ferreira, while on a study abroad assignment, volunteered at the Orphanage of Mother Theresa of Calcutta.

Upon his return to Broward College, he traveled to conferences with President Haile and gave presentations throughout Florida on behalf of the international student perspective. Ferreira hopes his experiences will encourage others to chase their own goals. He already knows his. Ferreira wants to apply computer science to transform communities and improve lives. “My American dream is not much different than my grandmother’s Brazilian dream,” he said. “It’s just that my dream is within reach.”

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