FAMU awards make students' dreams come true


Students were awarded scholarships at Florida A&M University's annual President's Tour at Springhill Missionary Baptist Church on Sunday in Gainesville.

Lee Ferinden/Correspondent
Published: Sunday, March 10, 2013 at 9:02 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, March 10, 2013 at 9:02 p.m.

Ayana Nelson held her breath when the time came for the scholarship announcements.

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Students were awarded scholarships at Florida A&M University's annual President's Tour at Springhill Missionary Baptist Church on Sunday in Gainesville.

Lee Ferinden/Correspondent

The entire room was silent Sunday as the first recipient was called to receive a $3,000 scholarship for two years from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University.

After 10 minutes, Nelson, 18, heard her name called. Her friends cheered as she was handed the award in a shiny green folder. The Palatka High School senior received the George W. Gore Assistantship scholarship, valued at $24,000.

“I didn’t know it was going to be that much,” she said. “Now, I can go to FAMU and make my family proud.”

Nelson and eight other high school seniors accepted a total of $68,000 at the sixth annual FAMU President’s Tour at the Springhill Baptist Church, 120 SE Williston Road. The purpose of the visit is to recruit some of the best students in Florida, according to FAMU.

The tour started on Saturday and will also stop in Miami and Fort Lauderdale later this week, said FAMU’s chief communications officer Sharon Saunders.

Students were awarded scholarships at the ceremony based on their grades and other academic indicators. Saunders said the university will confirm the information on the students’ transcripts.

The winners of awards of varying amounts included high school seniors from the region: Nataleh Howard, Dominique Isaac, Ezra Wallace, Jasmine Walker, Delmeshia Brown, Kenneth Johnson, Shantel Blakeley and Kamille Wade.

About 300 students, parents and alumni attended the event to learn more about FAMU and recognize distinguished alumni. FAMU Alachua County Alumni Chapter President G.W. said the university knew there was unnoticed talent and academic potential in Alachua County and wanted to tap it.

“Great things don’t just happen” he said. “You have to make them happen. I was raised by my grandmother in the projects. I was one of those kids that wasn’t supposed to go anywhere, and here I am.”

Vice President for Student Affairs William Hudson Jr., filled in as keynote speaker for FAMU interim university President Larry Robinson. Hudson spoke about his own experience as a graduate of FAMU, and how no one believed he could go to college.

“When I was in high school, I told my counselor I wanted to go to college, and she asked me why,” he said. “She told me I’d be dead by 25 anyway or working at the saw mill. To this day, I send her flowers every Valentine’s, and I sign them Dr. William Hudson.”

In his first year at FAMU, Hudson said he earned a 1.7 GPA.

“I was crying before I got into Dr. Frederick Humphries’ room,” he said. “Dr. Humphries told me ‘You are not here for yourself. You represent an entire population, and we are not going to let you fail, but we will hold you accountable.”

Four years later, Hudson had raised his GPA to a 2.8 and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. He later earned a master’s in counseling education from FAMU and a doctorate in rehabilitation counseling from Florida State University.

“If I can do it, any of you can,” he said. “Nothing is unachievable.”

Hudson promised students who didn’t receive a scholarship at the presentation that if they could raise their GPA and test scores, they could qualify until June for a scholarship from FAMU.

Robinson arrived at the presentation just as people started to leave. He had been stuck in traffic driving from Pensacola, he said, but he would have felt horrible if he didn’t arrive in Gainesville.

He said it was imperative for the southeast region that FAMU continue to succeed, despite the university currently dealing with various negative issues.

“You can use different tests to measure academic or research success, but it is difficult to measure the untold impact these young men and women will make on the state of Florida,” Robinson said.

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