“…this example, though unique, demonstrates the everyday qualities of SSF and its residents: outstanding, compassionate, and deeply loyal.”- Phillip Mendez

School: Florida State University

Year: Fall 2014- Current

House: Mode L. & Jeanne C. Stone Scholarship House

Phil has held the position of Student Board Representative during the 2015-2016 school year and is the Development Associate for the SSF Team until his graduation in May 2017.

Mom got custody of me after my parents’ divorce in 2001. She lived with a man who stole my toothbrush, made me eat from the trash, and locked me in my bedroom without a toilet. When mom was home, we talked about the textures of leaves and the contents of shampoo. In 2008, she left town, the man, and me to pursue her life and career.

I moved in with my father, an entrepreneur and insomniac who drank Coke and scribbled notes onto a little yellow legal pad watching Mad Money late at night. We flew handcrafted kites on the soccer fields of my elementary school, munched on sandy BBQ Lays at Daytona Beach for vacation, and lived in Section 8 apartments, where kids played with fire in parking lots and cursed us behind chipped drywall. He taught me personal problem-solving, inner-potential, and the importance of treating people right.


My first year of college, I was president of a dorm, advisor for the college of music, and, most importantly, friend to new, eye opening people – literally, eye opening. My first roommate Ben blasted Beethoven and made Maxwell House coffee to wake me up for our 8 a.m. sight singing class. I worked a sound console at a church and played guitar gigs at special events to pay for that first year. I knew working two hours every Sunday and a wedding every blue moon was not a real financial system that would get me through college. I applied for scholarships.

My sophomore year, I was accepted to the Southern Scholarship Foundation. Under their roof, I coauthored two (very obscure) books; held three leadership roles (though I hesitate to use “leadership roles” because I want to emphasize learning and collaborating not leading and role-playing); started a nonprofit; and made connections to the vibrant community of students, friends, and alumni that embodies Education for Life.


When I was a junior, I went on a bicycle tour from Key West to Tallahassee, Florida. I crashed in Fort Pierce, clothes shredded, vision blurred, unable to lift my arms. An SSF housemate drove from his home-away-from-SSF in Vero Beach to get me to the emergency room. After I was cleared for concussions and broken bones, we went to his house. He gave me his shower, his food, and his bed until I regained my strength. I think this example, though unique, demonstrates the everyday qualities of SSF and its residents: outstanding, compassionate, and deeply loyal.

As I see it, the benefit of SSF is threefold: (1) SSF is the pragmatic answer to the student housing problem. Unlike apartments and houses, there is no scary lease. No maintenance issues. No shady rent lords; (2) SSF is a money saver ($48,400 over the course of an average degree), and for many of us (82% of residents), those savings made it possible to go to school; and (3) SSF is a network. My housemates have taught me about investment banking, boat-toured me around Miami, and helped me come to terms with the loss of a friend.

My story is nascent, but I am proud to share the part SSF has played in my college years so far. There will be more revelations that resurface from forgotten places worth telling. When those visions come to light, I know there will be SSF graduates to share them with – on a boat in Miami, a ski slope in Switzerland, or at home, wherever that may be.


“I feel like I am exactly where I am supposed to be.” – Bethany Anderson


I have never really felt like I belonged somewhere until SSF granted me the amazing opportunity to live in the Polk Scholarship House. Since I was a year old, I have moved place-to-place for many different reasons. My journey started when I was born in Tucson, Arizona. Not long after, my family relocated to Goldsboro, North Carolina. About six years later, we made the move to Toccoa, Georgia. My dad’s job moved us to Atlanta, Georgia when I was in sixth grade. Surprise, surprise we then moved again, this time all the way across the country to Vergennes, Vermont. As soon as eighth grade was over, we then moved all the back to the other side of the country to Poinciana, Florida for my freshman year in high school. The following year we moved to Clermont, Florida where I would graduate high school. The most important move so far would be the one I made to Tallahassee only one month ago, which meant I would now be living with 30 other motivated, kind-hearted, ambitious, and beautiful girls.


When I found out I would be living with 30 other girls I was a bit intimidated and a little bit nervous, but while having that many personalities under one roof may bring some difficulties, it also brings new perspectives, new attitudes, new wisdom, and new adventures. A housemate may be a part of a club or take a certain class that you may want to be in, or know how the bus system works (it’s not as hard as I thought it would be by the way), or even have tips/suggestions to make college just a little bit easier. Having 30 housemates can be overwhelming, but more importantly it is such a great support system. In the midst of 31 girls, I am confident I can find one other girl in which has the answer to a question I might have, a suggestion to a problem, or even just some advice.  I am so lucky to be just one of the “31 Beautiful, 31 Strong”.

Not only is SSF providing me with a wonderful scholarship, in which, without it I am not confident I would be able to attend Florida State University, but it is also teaching me real-life skills that I will need after graduation as I enter the “real-world”. Living cooperatively, cooking meals, having a work job in which I have to complete twice a week, having responsibilities other than just school, and making important networking connections is preparing me more for the future than I could have ever imagined. I will always be grateful that I have the opportunity to be a part of this wonderful organization.

The Southern Scholarship Foundation is so much more than just a place to live rent-free, it is a home filled full with love, laughter, and support.

As of today, I have lived in Polk for over a month and I can truly say I don’t believe there is anywhere else I would rather be. I don’t feel like a misfit, I don’t feel like I am not welcome, I don’t feel as if I am a stranger; I feel like I am exactly where I am supposed to be. With only a month under my belt, I have already felt what it is like to constantly have someone to talk to whether that is my roommate, my house manager, or even just one of the girls in the kitchen making waffles at midnight. No matter where we all came from, no matter where we are all going, we all have this one thing in common—The Southern Scholarship Foundation

“…I come from a single parent household and I have 3 brothers who also felt passionately about attending college like me.”- Nadia Mousa

Name: Nadia Mousa

Year: Fall 2014- Current

House: Lundquist-Hovda Scholarship House

It’s so hard to believe that my 4 years at Florida State University are coming to a close. I am a senior Advertising Major graduating in May and my college experience has changed my life forever. As I reminiscence on the last four years and begin my job search, it’s easy to forget the individuals and opportunities that brought me to where I am today. But without SSF I wouldn’t have met the inspiring women that I get to call my housemates, I would be drowning in student debt, and I would not be as passionate and confident about my bright future.


The reason this opportunity has changed my life is because I come from a single parent household and I have 3 brothers who also felt passionately about attending college like me. We have always struggled financially, but thankfully we have a large family that has always been there to support us when we were younger. But when it came to thinking about paying for college and all of the other expenses that came with it, how was my mother expected to do that for the three of us? We all thought that we would have to take out loans and apply to hundreds of scholarships to even barely be able to afford the costs of attending college. But SSF changed all of our lives and I could not be more thankful.

My older brother lived in SSF while he was attending FSU and he is now working as an engineer in Tampa, Florida. I followed in his footsteps and I am going on my 3rd year living in SSF and I hope to be just as successful as him. SSF has allowed my brother and I to achieve our goals and attend college. My only hope is that my younger brother feels inspired by both of us to follow his dreams, just as I was when my older brother first joined the SSF Family.

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Lundquist really has been my home away from home after all of this time. I have had the opportunity to be a Business Manager, which was one of the most challenging positions I’ve ever been in. But I was able to learn so much about myself through the process. After this experience, I found myself holding other leadership positions on campus too. I am currently the Team Captain of the Competitive Advertising Team and I was the Student Director of the Campus Recreation Marketing team for the last three years. Through these extra-curriculars, and the constant love and support from all of my housemates, I have found a career that I am so passionate about. I couldn’t have done any of this without the opportunity SSF has given me. I can confidently say that when I graduate in May, I will hold all of the memories and lessons that SSF has taught me close to my heart as I embark on my next chapter.

If you would like to sponsor a student like Nadia, please visit our ‘Sponsor a Student’ page here: http://bit.ly/SSFSponsorship



“When I see people giving so much, it makes me want to do the same.” – Avery McClendon

School: Florida A&M University

Year: Spring 2014 – Spring 2016

House: The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation Scholarship House

As I reminisce through my life experience, I remember my freshman year at Edwards Water College (EWC) and how I was told that I was not able to register for classes for the spring semester. This issue was due to me being at a private college, while a balance steadily accumulated even with me taking out the full amount of loans. I went back home during the winter break with a defeated mind set, explaining to my parents that I let them down. They tried to encourage me but I let my current situation take over every ounce of hope that was in me. I searched for other avenues to pay back the school debt as well as the subsidized and unsubsidized loans.

Avery McClendon


One outlet that came to mind was joining the army and let that pay off the debt. I called a recruiter and he came out to talk to me and my mom. He sold my mom and I the story of a lifetime, expressing that this is a grand opportunity to become someone greater. He also said how this is the best way to pay off any debt that I may have. At that moment I was convinced that this is for me, and I asked him what will be my next step. He explained that I will have to take the ASVAB test the following week to see what job in the army would suit me. The next day I was doubting every decision involving going to the army. Later that day I received a phone call from my advisor at EWC and she asked why I stopped coming to school. I explained to her that a lady told me I was not able to register until I paid off my first semester balance. My advisor told me to come back, because I earned a GPA of 3.7 and I was eligible for scholarships. I expressed to her that I don’t have a way back because my original ride left a week ago. My parents were not trying to take off from work to take me to Jacksonville or the nearest greyhound station due to the time conflict. Another advisor overheard our conversation and offered to come get me from Clermont, Florida and bring me back to EWC before the last day to register, which was the next day. That night I was overwhelmed with joy thanking God for this blessing. As I traveled back to Jacksonville, I told myself to never give up no matter what it looks like at the moment. I was able to register for my classes and I receive a Tom Joyner scholarship that helped pay off my balance that spring semester.

As my journey continued, I transferred to Florida A & M University where I had the grand opportunity to be a part of the Southern Scholarship Foundation (SSF). SSF has not only molded me into a leader that wants to become better in all aspects of life, but also supported my way through college. From being the Social Chair to House Manager of the Knight House, SSF has taught me that communication is the key to everything that we do. Therefore, it is not always about the grade you make, but the hand you shake along the way. After SSF, I hope to accomplish my aspirations of becoming a Physical Therapist helping other individuals in need of assistance. I also would like to become a mentor to help teens who want to become better in life but don’t have anyone to help them.

Education for life – what is it?

E is for EXCELLENT. It is for those excellent moments that I have at SSF that guide me though any decision that I make.

is for DELIGHTFUL. The people that I met through SSF are just delightful and helpful. They have impacted me in so many ways.

is for UNBELIEVABLE. After 4 years of college, I am finally becoming the person that I wanted to be. It is unbelievable how much I have matured.

is for CONSTANT. In college, when all seems to go wrong, everyone needs one thing that never changes. This is what the house is to me. It is what kept my feet on earth.

is for ADVENTURE. Every semester requires someone to adapt to whatever comes to him or her. This is because every semester here is a new adventure. Through this process, I have gained a new set of skills.

is for THRIVING. As I see people around me thriving and progressing greatly in school, it motivates me to do the same.

is for INTELLIGENT. Intelligence doesn’t always come from what you learn in class or in the books. Sometimes, it simply comes from our interactions with others.

is for ONE HUNDRED PERCENT. I feel that the SSF community cares a lot about each other. They are 100% dedicated to me. When I see people giving so much, it makes me want to do the same.

is for NICE.

F is for FAVOR.

 O is for OPEN.


is for LIFETIME.

is for IMPACT.

is for FAMILY

is for EVERYONE. My impact on everyone and everyone impact on my life will be noticeable.


If you would like to sponsor a student like Avery, please visit our ‘Sponsor a Student’ page here: http://bit.ly/SSFSponsorship

“I will never live in another house with seventeen women who inspire one another to be greater and reach higher.” – Geranise Dorce


dsc01368Name: Geranise Dorce

Majors: Psychology & African American Studies

School: Florida State University

House: Lastinger Scholarship House

Year: Spring 2016 – Current

Education has always been an important aspect of my life. I think education is an investment, and that any investment towards self-empowerment and growth is a great one. However, an even greater investment is an investment in the self that can also empower and inspire others. My siblings and I grew up without great examples of financial and academic success. My family was completely dependent on my grandmother, who worked in the fields and as a housekeeper in the United States to support us. My father died when I was two years old, and my mother never graduated high school. In fact, my older sister was the first in the history of both sides of my family, distant and immediate alike, to attend and/or graduate college.


In many ways my education will serve as more than proof of qualification for my career. My college degree will serve as hope and peace of mind to my mother and grandmother that I will not be working alongside them as a housekeeper. It will serve as proof of their hard work and sacrifices for my success. Furthermore, my degree will be another example to my younger brother, who seems to have been brainwashed by the media to think that his athletic abilities are his only abilities as a young Black man, that Black men and women can be both athletic and smart. We are not confined to society’s prejudices against us.

SSF has played such a major role in my success in college thus far, and in living an exemplary life for my brother. Because of the money saved from SSF, I was able to participate in a cultural exchange program to Germany for three weeks this summer. To travel abroad for the simple purpose of observing culture is a concept unheard of in my family. Yet, I was able to do it because of SSF. I was able to show my brother once again that the sky is the limit. SSF has exposed me to a support system unlike any other that I have ever experienced. At Lastinger, I have: a tutor, a study buddy, a running partner, a designated swimming teacher, multiple taxi drivers (basically), an editor, multiple chefs, church buddies, “travel and conquer the world” partners, multiple fellow telenovela binge watchers, and a ton of close friends to whom I can go for anything. SSF has also provided me with an opportunity to reciprocate that same support to the rest of my house. I will never have another opportunity like this. I will never live in another house with seventeen women who inspire one another to be greater and reach higher. The difference SSF has made in my life is inconceivable and eternal. Thank you SSF for ensuring my mother’s and grandmother’s peace of mind, and for allowing me the opportunity to be a sister that my little brother can look up to. I am forever grateful. Thank you.


* If you would like to sponsor a student like Geranise, please visit our ‘Sponsor a Student’ page here: http://bit.ly/SSFSponsorship

“I can now focus on my academics & be the first in my family to graduate college.” – Jose Alvarez

School: University of Florida

House: Williams-Pilot Scholarship House

Year: 2015-Current

I am Jose Alvarez, a Family Youth and Community Sciences second year at the University of Florida. I currently reside in the Williams-Pilot Scholarship House. Getting into the University of Florida was a blessing itself. Coming from an underrepresented area, and as a minority it was very challenging to achieve my dreams. Not only was school difficult but also coming from a single-parent home, with very low income in the household, was an obstacle.  However, these life challenges have shaped the man I am now becoming. I have learned to be grateful for the smallest things in life.

Growing up in a single-parent home, and as the oldest all the responsibilities we placed upon my shoulders. Living in a small trailer my entire life was stressful, there were times where our electricity and/or water would go out and it would take several days to get fixed because of how old the trailer was. Growing up I couldn’t have the technology all my friends had because of my father’s income. I had to work with what I had. Graduating from high school made my dad proud, getting into the University of Florida made my dad even more proud, but Jose Alvarezreceiving the SSF scholarship? Proud was an understatement. The fact that I would be going to my dream school, and living RENT-FREE was a double blessing.  The Southern Scholarship Foundation has also played a role in my life as I continue to be shaped and molded as the individual I am at this stage in my life, living in such a diverse community has opened my mind. Coming from Hamilton County, one of the top ten poorest counties in Florida I was basically living in a “box”, where I was so used to seeing the same people over and over. SSF has exposed me to so many cultures and diversity.

It is because of the foundation that my 3 years at UF has been successful. Now a sophomore, I can’t thank individuals like yourself enough, for making it possible for me to make my dreams a reality. I am forever grateful for the continued support that I have been given by sponsors who really care about my future. Because of the foundation and sponsors, I can say that I am truly blessed. I no longer have to stress about finding a place to live while in college. I can now focus on my academics and succeed and be the first in my family to graduate college.  With that being said, I hope to start my own non-profit organization for the youth in my community and work my way into the other 9 poorest counties in Florida. I also plan to work in a juvenile detention center, and serve as a role model to the young men and women there.

Please consider making a gift this year to support the residence of Southern Scholarship, and most important, my family. Your investment in Southern Scholarship Foundation has and will continue to impact generations to come. Thank you for your generosity.


With thanks and appreciation,

Jose Alvarez, University of Florida


Answer Jose’s call to action by viewing our Ways to Give here: http://bit.ly/SSFWays2Give



Using words to describe the intangible #Education4Life experience at Southern Scholarship Foundation. #SSFStories