The scholarships come from a range of donors: families honoring deceased college alumni and faculty, USF graduates looking to "pay it forward," and local corporations and service organizations looking to assist the next generation of Bay area business leaders.
Some honor 'first generation' scholars -- students who are the first in their families to go to college. Others honor participants in college activities like the Corporate Mentor Program, where students receive advice through both workshops and an adviser who works for a Bay area corporation.
One, the John J. Saunders Memorial Fellowship, named for the late owner of the Saunders Advisory Group, a Tampa-based financial services provider, even comes with a reserved parking space!
Now when most people think of scholarships, the first thing they think of is money -- and with around $380,000 given to this year's group of recipients, the funds make a huge difference to them.
“I would not be here today if it wasn’t for scholarships, I wouldn’t even be anywhere near a university," Marcos Gonzalez said. He received two scholarships: the T. Rowe Price Annual Corporate Mentor-First Generation Scholarship and the Business Honors Program Study Abroad Scholarship.
That latter honor allowed Gonzalez to spend most of the past summer on a trip around the world: studying for six weeks in Florence, Italy; interning for a month with an international accounting organization in Beijing (after brief stopovers in London and Dubai); and a three-day leadership conference in Dallas with accounting firm Deloitte (which may lead to a future internship in New York City).
Gonzalez wrapped up his summer in North Carolina, where he worked alongside his father, a migrant farm worker, picking tomatoes.
"The mentality growing up was education was out of reach for me, like, there was no way I was going to go to college, but I’m here," the junior double majoring in accounting and economics said. "The way I grew up made me into a hard-working person with good values and I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world, but it was hard growing up. You know, we didn’t have any money to invest into a college fund of any sort. Our life savings was quarters in a jug at one point.”
You can see Gonzalez tell his story in this video:
Scholarships also provide the chance for students to provide assistance and inspiration to their family.
Accounting senior Anna Morra received a Barron Collier/Corporate Mentor Program First Generation Scholarship.
"I actually help my parents with business decisions that they have. I helped them invest their money. I help them save their money through the experiences and the lessons that I have been taught," Morra said.
"I have three younger siblings...all at different stages in their life, so to have me as an example receiving these scholarships, showing them the major that I am doing, showing them the planning aspect of life, and the investment that USF is making into me, it helps them," she added.
Fellow Collier scholar, marketing senior Sandra Loboda is a similar beacon to her 13-year-old sister.
"She’s sees what I am doing, she sees the networking events that I am going to, she sees all the people that I am getting to meet and what kind of impact it has on me," the native of Poland said.
"Being only twenty years old," Loboda added, "and everything that I’ve gone through—all the leadership experiences that I had, that I could not have done without the Corporate Mentor Program and just the University of South Florida that has given me, my sister looks up and she’s like 'I want to go to college; when’s it my turn?' I (say), 'No, you have to go through high school first!'"
For a donor like Barron Collier III, being able to meet the beneficiaries of his philanthropy and hear their stories was priceless.
"I knew it would have a positive impact, but little did I know the personal impact it’d have, hearing their stories and all," said the General Partner at Barron Collier Companies, a Naples-based land holding corporation that also owns agriculture, real estate, and mineral management businesses.
Collier, whose family the Southwest Florida county is named after, graduated from the USF College of Business in the 1970's.
"I had the opportunity of being able to have my college paid for and all, so I was fortunate there," Collier said. "And to listen to what some of the struggles and the challenges that these students have overcome and work through and risen, they are true leaders and all, and I am just very proud to be able to help support them.”
And USF College of Business Dean Moez Limayem is grateful as well. He says, particularly in these tough economic times, scholarships can allow his school to attract the best and brightest students who otherwise might not be able to afford it.
"First, they are hard-working, the work ethic is absolutely there," Limayem said. "But in addition, there is no sense of entitlement, they work so hard their entire lives, and they know they need to work even harder to make it from the classroom to the boardroom, and these scholarships make that possible, so the joy is just tremendous.”