“…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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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