Marcelo Acosta cheers after being named first Noel Scholar recipient

A new scholarship will give one business student a full ride to UNI, including tuition, books and room & board. Marcelo Acosta, a student from East High School in Des Moines who will attend UNI in the fall, is the first recipient of the Noel Scholars program, created thanks to a generous gift by Rick (Accounting, ‘90) and Lisa Noel. 

Acosta found out he was this year’s recipient while at school during a surprise celebration. The scholarship was awarded by Katie Hillyer, director of the Office for Professional Distinction, and Dean Leslie Wilson. His friends and family were also in attendance, who said he was completely taken aback. But he’s grateful for the award, which will cover the cost of school beyond any financial aid he receives.

Marcelo Acosta surrounded by friends and family.

“It’s honestly relieving to know that I don’t need to worry about paying bills, or paying for textbooks,” said Acosta, who is one of four siblings. “I guess I’m more relieved that my parents don’t have to struggle to help me as well.”

Acosta has been active in high school. He participates in theater, plays center back on the school soccer team and is involved in Upward Bound, an organization that helps students from low-income families prepare for college.

At UNI, Acosta plans to do the same and get involved in any way he can. He’s already looked into several leadership programs and plans to major in business management. Because of his own experiences, Acosta’s career goal is to help low-income citizens find housing.

“When I was a child, we had that struggle financially,” Acosta said. “We honestly had to get a lot of help just to make it where we are now. That struggle, those experiences that I’ve had, kind of motivated me to help other people that have the same struggles. That’s why I want to go into business so I can help other families.”

Hillyer was one of the staff members who interviewed Acosta for the scholarship. She was struck by Acosta’s passion for wanting to give back.

“He’s an amazing young man, and I think he’s taken full advantage of the opportunities in his high school career,” Hillyer said. “It means a lot to be able to make a difference like that in someone’s life.”

Acosta was initially drawn to UNI because of its quality business and study abroad programs. The people he met on his campus tours reminded him of the friendliness at home. So he applied, was accepted and started turning in scholarship applications, which tipped him off to the Noels Scholars program.

“UNI was wholesome, and I didn’t get that feeling at other colleges,” Acosta said. “I knew this was a new home to me. And the business program is amazing.”

You can find more information on the Noel Scholars program here. The gift will be awarded to one student every year who is TRIO eligible or from an underrepresented racial, ethnic or socioeconomic background.

Leslie Wilson hand certificate to Marcelo Acosta

Marcelo Acosta cheers after being named Noel Scholar program recipient