Scholarship Program Can Be Key to Self-Sufficiency
Dr. Samuel Wright likes helping shape young people's lives.
The longtime University of South Florida educator spent his career helping students achieve their goals. Now retired, he's an asset as a member of the Hillsborough County Community Action Board (CAB).
Wright supports the Board's "detailed and intrusive" approach to assisting low-income and disadvantaged teens. "The only way they will have a piece of the American dream is to get their education and go on," he says. And that takes resources and some cajoling.
The 21-member CAB meets monthly. This year it will dispense Community Service Block Grant monies with the objectives of reducing poverty, revitalizing low-income communities, and helping poor families become self-sufficient.
It is one of 46 County Boards and Committees comprised of volunteers who work with staffers on a wide range of initiatives, from curtailing bullying to finding homes for unwanted pets. Openings on the panels are advertised periodically, and people may ask about any board or committee at any time.
The Community Action Board awards scholarships of up to $5,000 to needy students. Seventy students - a record number - are slated to receive scholarships at a June 14 ceremony at Franklin Boys Preparatory Academy Middle School.
CAB and Social Services also sponsor the College Explorers Program. Children and teens in 7th through 11th grades spend six weeks at Florida A&M University in the summer. The idea is to immerse low-income and at-risk students in a collegiate atmosphere to encourage them to consider pursuing college degrees. This summer, 25 Hillsborough County students - 15 boys and 10 girls - will attend.
Though education is a primary focus of CAB, the Board has additional initiatives. It allocates grant money to promote safety in low-income areas, helps residents pay for rent and utilities, and encourages people to own homes and businesses.
Self-sufficiency is the central goal. Teaching people to make it on their own, with a little help, is more valuable than a handout.
Board Member Norene Copeland-Miller has lived in East Tampa for more than 20 years. She applauds the Board's efforts to improve the area. "We have to get out there at the forefront to make a difference," she says. "We are stakeholders."
Like Wright, she believes education is a key to success, and is particularly enamored with the scholarship program. "When you know better you can do better," she says.