“As a first-generation immigrant student, I understand the struggles and barriers many people in my community face and I want to help others obtain the same opportunities I have at FSU and beyond.”
First-generation FSU student helps guide others
Major: Biological Science
Graduation: Fall 2021
With its beautiful campus, resources for students and incredible faculty and staff, Robel Mechal said making the decision to attend Florida State University was an easy choice.
While at FSU, Mechal has taken advantage of all resources on campus, not only for himself but also to give back and help other students.
“I had a friend at FSU who introduced me to the many resources that the university offers its students, such as CARE, ACE and more,” Mechal said. “The stories of FSU faculty and academics really drew me in.”
After being accepted to the FSU Center for Academic Retention & Enhancement (CARE) Summer Bridge Program (SBP), Mechal saw diversity and inclusion on campus and felt confident in his decision to attend.
The SBP is an alternate admission program for first-generation college students and those who are disadvantaged by economic or educational circumstances. It is designed to help ease students’ adjustment to college life and build a foundation for academic success. Mechal said the Summer Bridge Program was one of the best experiences he had and gave him the opportunity to meet lots of people.
“I’ll never forget coming into college as a CARE student,” he said. “It was nice to be surrounded by people I shared a lot of experiences with in life while becoming acquainted with college life at Florida State.”
Mechal started out his FSU career by being selected as the 2018 North Florida Jim Moran Scholar. The scholarship is awarded to African-American high school seniors, one from South Florida and one from North Florida, for being role models in their community.
“It was very surreal because I didn’t ever think I would get an award like that,” Mechal said. “It has helped me so much in my undergraduate career and has helped pave the way for my future.”
As a biological science major, Mechal has been involved in research on campus. He’s worked on multiple projects under the same faculty group, including how healthcare professionals and medical students experience burnout and how sleep is related to PTSD.
Mechal has been an active participant in several student organizations and on-campus programs.
“FSU has given me the opportunity to find a lot of meaningful friendships on top of gaining my education,” he said. “I’ve really found a close-knit family in programs like CARE and that’s something I will never forget.”
Within CARE, he served in leadership roles for the Student Support Services-STEM (SSS-STEM) program. SSS-STEM offers free academic services to program participants to help them remain at FSU, graduate on-time in a STEM major and prepare for post-graduation life.
Mechal served as education chair and fundraising co-chair on the SSS-STEM leadership council, helping to plan many events including a Chipotle fundraiser, resume critiques through the career center, vision board events and more. He also helped tutor members in chemistry and biology.
Through the Undergraduate SSTRIDE (U-SSTRIDE) Program — the college component of the FSU College of Medicine Outreach Programs and serves as an extension of the pre-college program — Mechal helped tutor and mentor East Gadsden High School students in various science and math classes while facilitating exam study sessions.
Besides tutoring, Mechal has also served as a leader in the classroom by being a learning assistant for general chemistry courses through office hours and classroom discussions. Last fall, he served as a Freshman Interest Group (FIG) leader for a pre-health group of 16 students and hopes to do so again in Fall 2021.
“Being a FIG leader was a truly enriching experience and one of the best things I have done at Florida State because I’ve been able to have a direct impact on these students’ lives,” he said.
Mechal plans to graduate in fall 2021. He hopes to attend medical school and become a family physician, so he can work with patients of various age groups and needs.
Looking back, Mechal is grateful for all the opportunities and people he has met while at FSU. He wants future and current FSU students to focus on their studies, but remember that there’s more to college than just academics when you can find the right balance between work and play.
“There’s definitely more to college than just education and just classes,” Mechal said. “You can meet lots of people and make lots of meaningful relationships and friendships. There are a lot of opportunities and experiences that can make you an overall better person and evolve into the type of person that you want to become.”