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February 9, 2016   
Posted: February 2, 2010
CCU student from Haiti awarded full scholarship

  Pierre Henry Valdema of Port-au-Prince, Haiti  
Pierre Henry Valdema of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, a junior computer science major at Coastal Carolina University, has been awarded a full scholarship that will enable him to complete his degree at CCU.

While Valdema's family and home survived the Jan. 12 earthquake, the collapse of the economy in Haiti has made it impossible for his parents to contribute financially toward the completion of his education. The magnitude of the hardships they face led CCU President David A. DeCenzo to authorize a scholarship that will cover the balance of his tuition until he graduates. The award will also provide funds for books, meal plans and housing.

Valdema is the only Haitian citizen enrolled at the University (his older sister Nathalie, a senior biology major, is an American citizen). His situation was brought to DeCenzo's attention by Richard and Rebecca Lovelace of Conway, who are serving as Valdema's host family while he is an exchange student at CCU.

When he was notified about the scholarship, Valdema called his family immediately. "But I couldn't reach them by phone so I sent a text message," he said. "My father sent me one back saying 'Glory to God.' "

Valdema's father is a minister in charge of six churches and six elementary schools in Haiti. His mother is a nurse who operates a nutrition program for children. The family has long been involved in education and charitable work, and the recent earthquake-which damaged or destroyed several of the churches his father serves and left many parishioners homeless-has shattered the family's resources and placed an unprecedented demand on their services.

Valdema's decision to pursue higher education in the area (he transferred to CCU from Horry-Georgetown Technical College) came about through his connection with local families and individuals, including Rebecca Lovelace, who had conducted mission work with his parents in Haiti. Lovelace is past president of Christian Haitian American Partners (CHAP), an organization that supports the charitable work of the Valdemas in Haiti. Valdema often serves as a translator for American mission groups in Haiti sponsored by CHAP.

At CCU, Valdema is a work-study student in the Office of Information Technology Services, where he works repairing computers. After graduating from CCU, Valdema plans to earn a master's degree in computer science and says that he may return to Haiti "to work and help people there."

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