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Sunday, February 25, 2024

UF junior receives award for service from Florida Gov. Rick Scott

Gov. Rick Scott honored a UF student for her work to improve education for underprivileged students.

Katelynd Todd, a UF health education and behavior junior, was one of three people to receive Volunteer Florida’s Champion of Service Award last week.

“The most challenging (part) is to find enough time to accomplish everything you want to accomplish,” Todd, 20, said.

In 2014, Todd founded Gainesville Reads Inc., a nonprofit organization improving literacy for local, at-risk elementary school students by fostering accomplishments and support. 

She also helped create Excellence Scholars Cabinet, a leadership development program for underserved high school students run within the UF Black Student Union.

“If you can get people excited about learning things, then that’s one underlying development that can really impact the rest of their lives,” Todd said.

Kirsten Elliot, the assistant director of Excellence Scholars, said the program provides these students with support, experience and encouragement, which will help them achieve their future goals of entering college, the military or the work force.

“So many times people say ‘no child left behind,’ but there are so many children left behind because they’re not from communities that have the resources they need,” the 20-year-old electrical engineering major said.

Todd said she looks at the award as an achievement, not a goal. She said she plans to build and expand upon her service programs at UF.

More service plans include starting an agricultural and nutritional program in the Jacksonville area called Grow under the Bill Clinton Global Initiative as well as conducting research on chronic illnesses with a grant from the McNair Scholars Program. She also sits on both the Reitz Union Board of Managers and the Student Health Advisory Board to the infirmary.

Todd said she encourages people to take initiative to achieve their goals. Each of her projects began with a conversation; taking the first steps made them realities, she said.

“The world changes every day by every single one of those small steps,” she said.

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