University of Central Florida

Michelle Aiello (2016)

My First Generation Story

At 24, my mother left Cuba seeking political freedom from Fidel Castro’s oppressive communist regime. When my mother reached Miami, she quickly realized that achieving the “American Dream” was not as easy as it seemed. Since my mother never received a secondary education and did not speak English, the types of jobs she was offered were limited. She eventually met my father, an Argentinean immigrant, and I was born a year later.

Due to my parents’ economic hardships, I learned that an education should not be taken for granted because it provides people with the opportunity to learn, teach and gain better resources to survive effectively. So, I was determined and motivated to make my education my top priority.

I continued my education at Miami Dade College and decided that I wanted to pursue a Ph.D. in clinical psychology. From there, I made the decision to leave Miami and transfer to the University of Central Florida (UCF). During my first year at UCF, I realized that as a first- generation student, I did not have the support or the guidance to prepare for the rigor of a graduate program, so I applied and was accepted to the McNair Scholars Program. Due to the incredible support from the McNair program and the sacrifices my parents made, I have had the opportunity to conduct research, present at various conferences and mentor a multitude of students.

Currently, I am an undergraduate research assistant at UCF’s RESearch and Treatment on Response to Extreme Stressors laboratory. In addition, for the past two summers, I conducted research as part of the University of California, San Diego STARS program. In the future, I plan to earn my Ph.D. in clinical psychology and dedicate my life to researching veterans’ mental health and alternative treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I will also return to my community and mentor other first-generation and underrepresented students in hopes that they will find the right path through education.

About the Student

Michelle Aiello Resized

Michelle Aiello was born and raised in Miami, Florida. She completed her associate degree at Miami Dade College and transferred to the University of Central Florida. Michelle is interested in pursuing a Ph.D. in clinical psychology.

Student Stats

Name: Michelle Aiello (2016)
Age: 24
Year in School: Senior
Major: Psychology
Favorite Course: Advanced Research Methods in Psychology
Dream Job: Academic Researcher

About the School


The University of Central Florida is an emerging preeminent research institution and America’s Partnership University. Our 13 colleges provide education and opportunities to more than 63,000 students from all 50 states and more than 150 countries. Located in Orlando, Florida, UCF is the nation’s second-largest university with 212 degree programs from which to choose. UCF is ranked as one of the “Most Innovative” universities by U.S. News & World Report, a best-value university by The Princeton Review and Kiplinger’s, and one of the nation’s most affordable colleges by Forbes.



  • Kellee Edmonds
    Vice President of Communications and Public Relations
    (202) 478-4662