By Ellen Forman
By the time the COVID-19 pandemic escalated, Isis Jordana (BAcc ’22, BBA ’22) was struggling. Having left her entire family behind in Cuba, the now-24-year-old was on her own, paying rent, working in real estate and studying for her bachelor’s degrees in accounting and finance at FIU Business.
“I was in a very dark position two years ago,” Jordana said. Real estate transactions came to a virtual halt in the pandemic’s early days. Paying the rent while keeping up with her studies became a steeper climb each month. “I had to move out of Miami; it was so expensive. I had used almost all my savings, and I thought I would have to drop out.”
That is when scholarships saved the day. Jordana was awarded $2,000 from the All Florida Paper/Luis Sanchez Scholarship fund, while also being aided by The Argiz Family Eminent Scholarship Endowment. “If it wasn’t for those two scholarships, I would not have graduated,” she said.
Meanwhile, Jordana moved to Cape Coral, on Florida's west coast, a more affordable location, and, with help from the funding, was able to take most of her classes online as the pandemic ground on. Eventually, when restrictions eased, she commuted to Miami for an on-campus class. She graduated in May 2022 with her bachelor’s degrees, and a 3.9 GPA.
“I didn’t know I wanted to pursue accounting. I just fell in love with it,” she said, noting that she always aspired to create a career in business, yet was surprised by how appealing she found the logic and concepts that underlie the discipline of accounting.
Jordana currently works at the accounting firm BDO and anticipates growing her career. She savors her current situation as only those who've experienced turbulence can appreciate. “Now I feel I can accomplish goals in life, the goals I set for myself,” she said.
If it wasn't for those two scholarships, I would not have graduated.
Isis Jordana, Scholarship Recipient
It has not been lost on Jordana that she, a Cuban-born migrant, was helped by another immigrant whose family fled the island decades earlier and faced similar challenges. Armando Caceres, the founder and CEO of All Florida Paper Inc., came to the U.S. as a youngster with his parents, Secundino and Yolanda, who left behind everything. Now, All Florida is a leading privately held U.S. distributor of paper and other products, with clients throughout the U.S. and other countries.
The All Florida Paper/Luis Sanchez donation funds five scholarships of about $2,000 per year for five years for degree-seeking FIU Business students with a minimum 3.5 GPA.
It is specifically geared toward students who, like Caceres and his family, came to the United States seeking a better future. The scholarship is named for Luis Sanchez, a teacher at Edison Private School in Hialeah who throughout his career taught many immigrant children like Caceres. “He was our most beloved teacher, our mentor, counselor and friend,” said Caceres in a letter that accompanied the gift agreement with FIU. “He inspired us to dream beyond our possibilities. He challenged us to become the best possible students and men and women of the future that we could possibly be.”
The company already has strong ties to FIU. Caceres’ wife and business partner, Marisel Caceres (MAcc ’95, BAcc ’93) attended the College of Business, earning both undergraduate and graduate accounting degrees. And several All Florida Paper employees attended FIU.
As for Jordana, she has sailed into calmer seas. Along with having a job she loves, family is now at hand. Her sister and two teenage nieces have joined her in Cape Coral. And she hopes to soon bring other relatives to Florida as well. “My biggest dream is to bring my mom to see this beautiful country that has given me so many opportunities.”