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From the moment she stepped on campus during her junior year in high school, Esther Flavien ’20 knew she had found a home at Lafayette College.

More than four years later, the first recipient of the David and Washington McDonogh Scholarship says that sense of home has only grown stronger and more meaningful with solid friendships established with classmates, faculty, and staff.

Flavien, who will receive a degree in psychology this month, understands the vital importance of home and community having left a restive Haiti in 2005 with her family to find a fresh start in the United States. Settling first in Florida, then moving to Philadelphia, she chose Lafayette and its tradition of academic excellence, inclusiveness, and a supportive culture when it came time to choose a college.

Esther Flavien

Photo by Flor De Maria Caceres Godoy ’22

Pursuing a quality education without the stress and fear of political upheaval was a key reason why the family left Haiti.

“There was a lot of political turmoil in Haiti in early 2000s. It wasn’t safe anymore for my family,” Flavien says. “My parents wanted to make sure we had the best opportunity for an education and to be safe as well.”

She says the ability to make connections with professors, students, and groups such as the Association of Black Collegians (ABC) and the McDonogh Network all contributed to a sense of belonging.

“I just knew this was my community,” she says. “In particular, the McDonogh Network has made me feel welcome.”

Without the McDonogh Scholarship, the Lafayette experience may have been unattainable for her.

“The scholarship was a big help,” Flavien says. “I would not have been at Lafayette without it.”

She says she values how the McDonogh Network connected her to alumni who are in her field and share her interests. “To catch up with alumni and see how they’re invested in the future of Lafayette students is so inspiring,” Flavien says. “It all adds up to making Lafayette feel like home.”

She thanked and credited Robert Young ’14, director of intercultural development, for coordinating events and getting her in contact with alumni. “He embodies the McDonogh Network and wants everyone to seek opportunities,” Flavien says. “He makes the network feel like family.”

As the only person to hold the distinction of being the first conferee of the McDonogh Scholarship, she was asked to share a message to future recipients. 

“Take full advantage of this gift,” she says. “Don’t think of it purely as a financial gift but as an opportunity to make a difference and take your Lafayette experience by storm. I’m so thankful for the opportunities that were made possible by being the first recipient of this scholarship. I’ve made my own differences in my own way. Always know that this campus welcomes you.”

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