By Aaliyah Wilkerson and Katherine Brinkley-Broomfield
For more than 61 years, the Southern Scholarship Foundation (SSF) has provided rent-free housing to a plethora of students with outstanding academic achievement, good character and financial need.
In September of 2017, SSF and Florida A&M University (FAMU) celebrated their 20-year partnership.
According to President and CEO of the SSF Shawn Woodin the relationship between FAMU and SFF has been impactful.
“We have 17 houses in North Florida. In 1997, a few houses were dedicated here in Tallahassee. That year, FAMU had reached a new high in enrollment of 12,000,” said Woodin. “So, we are proud of that part of our history together.”
Since its implementation on FAMU’s campus in 1997, by former President Fredrick Humphries, due to a surge of enrollment, SSF has upheld its mission to help deserving young people who lack financial resources, but demonstrate excellent academic merit and good character, attend institutions of higher education, including students who attend Florida A&M University.
According to Lady Dyhana Ziegler, Ph.D., DCJ, interim dean of the School of Journalism & Graphic Communication and board member of SSF, she is proud of the growth of the scholarship and the leadership in the students.
“I have served on this board for almost 20 years. There’s been no greater pleasure than to
have our students — this relationship with our university is more than I can even express,” Ziegler said.
According to Ziegler, the students who participate in SSF are not just getting a scholarship; they are getting a “life-scholarship,” where students are taught to cohabitate with other diverse students.
“They have to live together, they have to cook together, they have to clean together and they also have to solve problems,” explained Dr. Ziegler.
“A lot of these students leave without the high debt that most students have because they don’t have to pay rent. I spend so much time with these students, watching them grow. My mother even came over to have thanksgiving dinner with them. And boy, do they know how to cook,” Ziegler continued.
FAMU’s Interim President Larry Robinson, Ph.D., made some positive remarks about the FAMU and SSF partnership.
“Our students benefit directly from starting college with an experience in an on-campus facility. Our priority is ensuring that new students get to experience opportunities, like the Southern Scholarship Foundation, where we get to nurture them and they get to work together with their fellow students through cooperative learning,” explained Robinson.
“Our 20-year partnership with the Southern Scholarship Foundation has also helped to take a major financial concern off the minds of our parents and students – which is the cost of housing during the college years,” continued Robinson.
Senior public relations student Troy Townsend said after his first semester out of state that he wanted to be close to his hometown Jacksonville and decided on transferring. It wasn’t until after some friends’ persuasion and a cousin working in a scholarship house for Townsend to make his decision on transferring to FAMU.
“My best friend convinced me to consider FAMU, and when I did, I was sold on the pride and history of the university. I personally knew some people that attended FAMU and they told me all I needed to know about it, and I was sold,” Townsend said. “My cousin was a house manager of the Knight House in Southern Scholarship Foundation. When he found out that I was transferring to FAMU, he told me about the scholarship foundation and told me to apply.”
Student are awarded scholarships in the form of rent-free housing to live in one of 27, furnished scholarship houses that are adjacent to their college campus. In Tallahassee, there are three houses at FAMU. Students representing a variety of backgrounds and cultures, share the duties and responsibilities necessary to maintain a household. Each house is home to 9 to 31 students, and each house works together to establish a semester budget, plan and shop for their menus, cook, clean and study together.
“Living in the scholarship house has impacted my ability to accept and appreciate others’ differences because in the house there are many people from different backgrounds and even different cultures,” Townsend said. “Cooperation is key in the house, so to thrive in the house, it is pertinent to be able to accept everyone for who they are. Living in the house has definitely helped with that.”
“Living in the scholarship house, everyone must cooperate and be a part of community living. So, the foundation promotes a cordial atmosphere that the residents must live by,” Townsend said. “The biggest emphasis that the foundation promotes is cooperation because to keep the house in a stable condition, everyone must tend to their roles and work among each other to succeed.”
Qualified students who have a GPA of a 3.0 or better, good character, financial need, and acceptance into FAMU are encouraged to apply.
For more information, visit www.southernscholarship.org.