UF’s Black Student Union has taken it upon itself to ensure local high school students have the funds necessary to pursue a college degree. UF’s Leadership Development Institute, a program within BSU, recently created a scholarship called the Rich in Color Scholarship to promote higher education for local high school students who otherwise may be unable to afford it.
Last semester, I wrote about the importance of helping local communities. I suggested it is imperative to focus on the people in close proximity to us — the people who we see every day, and go to school and work. A local group has embodied the spirit of helping our community and has founded a scholarship for local students, particularly those at Eastside High School, an Alachua County high school.
The Leadership Development Institute, a cabinet within the BSU, recently founded the scholarship, which is geared toward helping high school seniors in east Gainesville afford education beyond their high school graduation. Keirten Nivol, a member of the Leadership Development Institute stated, “A big part of our mission is making sure that our members have all of the tools that they need in order to succeed and providing them with a space to grow into pillars in their community. We want to give this opportunity to the community that we live in.” Members of the Leadership Development Institute have noticed a stark inequality in the number of high school seniors from the east side of Gainesville who attend college, compared to those from the west, and are striving to eliminate this gap.
The focus of the Leadership Development Institute is to “build community while staying true to the values and ideals of the black student union with the goal of empowering the leaders of tomorrow,” according to the program’s website. This group aims to empower leaders, both current members and future high school graduates, through the financial support from their scholarship.
Gainesville, despite being a progressive college town, is geographically segregated. Schools on the east side of Gainesville are predominantly black, in contrast with schools on the west side, which are predominantly white. In 2018, Alachua County was noted as having the widest achievement gap between black and white students in Florida in math, science and language arts. The lack of funding and support for east Gainesville schools shows a stark racial divide in our community, and we must bridge this divide.
Gainesville is fortunate to have groups like the BSU and its Leadership Development Institute that aim to eradicate antiquated racial divides and promote diversity on college campuses. Education is the truest form of liberation. By helping high school graduates afford and attend college, we will see a more diverse, inclusive future with leaders who understand the importance of helping others. America’s future will be led by students from our communities who appreciate the need for promoting diversity, improving education and bridging racial divides in our counties, as well as across the U.S. The country's future is brighter than ever, thanks to scholarships promoting education within our communities.
Graduates who benefit from the Rich in Color Scholarship provided by BSU will be likely to understand the importance of giving back to the community from which they come from and helped them to achieve their goals. By promoting this understanding of the importance of giving back, the Leadership Development Institute is truly building pillars of the community. This newfound scholarship will enrich our community for generations to come.
Hannah Whitaker is a UF English sophomore. Her column appears on Mondays.