May 30, 2023

First-Generation College Student Says Faith, Family, and Determination Pay Off

Daniella Parra

PBA News


Daniella Parra, ‘23 is no stranger to perseverance. The South Florida native, who recently graduated from Palm Beach Atlantic University (PBA) with a bachelor’s degree in communication and a minor in journalism, is a first-generation college student and a cancer survivor.

Daniella Parra grew up in West Palm Beach. Her parents are from Colombia and fostered a strong sense of cultural heritage throughout her childhood. For Parra, pursuing college was always a priority—even as a young girl who fought bone cancer.

“My parents have always been the most amazing and supportive people,” she said. “College was something I always wanted to do, and I wanted to [feel] normal while battling cancer.”

Parra learned about PBA in high school, when a representative came to talk about the University. That’s when Parra realized PBA aligned with everything she wanted in a college—small classroom sizes, Christian values, and location in South Florida, close to family. A campus tour confirmed it.

“I am such a family person and it would’ve been hard to leave,” Daniella Parra said. “[I wanted] to have my family [near] me.”

Initially, though, being at PBA wasn’t easy. Her sophomore year was particularly challenging—she suffered a bad accident, breaking her femur in half before undergoing major surgery and a lengthy recovery. Thankfully, Parra says, her professors were understanding and accommodating as she worked on assignments.

“I’ve always cared so much about school,” she said. “When they prayed for me over Zoom, it was a big blessing that I don’t think I would’ve found anywhere else.”

She also worked at a real estate brokerage during her sophomore year and considered taking a year off to pay for tuition—but hard work, prayer, and a helpful conversation led to a new opportunity during her junior year.

Dr. Stephanie Bennett, professor of communication and media ecology, introduced Parra to a full-time internship opportunity at IPO Edge, a journalism firm that delivers news about new and upcoming initial public offerings. During the internship, Parra put her journalism and writing skills from the classroom to work.

Now, the 21-year-old graduate holds two communications positions. She’s a correspondent at IPO Edge and the media and marketing coordinator at Treasure Property Group.

“[My parents] are proud because they knew how hard it was for me to pay for [college],” said Parra. “They supported me in the best way possible, and they [loved] seeing me grow and be an example for my sisters.”

In addition to her family’s unwavering support, she’s grateful for her professors and the PBA community—especially when it comes to uniting faith with strong convictions.

During one of her years at PBA, Parra reinvigorated a student club that works to foster a safe space for and unite Latino students. She also worked for The Beacon Today, managing the student-led publication’s social media channels.

“My professors were great—I loved having different perspectives,” Parra said. “They were all Christians but very inclusive, and I was able to grow in my worldview. PBA really shows love toward people. You can never go wrong with being in an environment that loves people.”

After graduation, Parra plans to continue growing her faith, career with Treasure Property Group and IPO Edge, and circle of friends in South Florida.

“In life, you’ll face a lot of adversity,” she said. “At the moment I didn’t understand, but I can look back and see that Jesus was orchestrating something. If you have that faith, you can live in gratitude, do your best, and work hard toward those dreams.”

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