“I knew that when I got to college I wanted to live in the Southern Scholarship Foundation.” – Sarah Stump

Ever since the beginning of my high school career I knew that when I got to college I wanted to live in the Southern Scholarship Foundation. I had two older sisters that were either living in SSF or starting there shortly. My parents and I put down deposits with on campus housing just as a back-up, but we were hoping I would be living in SSF just like my sisters. I have three older sisters and my parents weren’t able to completely financially support our college education. My sisters and I worked summer jobs and applied for scholarships to help pay for college but when my second oldest sister started living in SSF that changed our lives.

I thought I was prepared to live in SSF because I had 3 sisters and I was used to sharing tight spaces with them. My parents always made us help cook and clean, so I thought that would help me adjust to the SSF life. I also heard a lot of stories from my older sisters and was able to visit their houses many times. These experiences did not prepare me for the wonderful community of SSF.

WhenS.Stump vertical I first arrived at SSF I was really shy. I was intimidated by the other girls in my house because they were older and many of them had lived in the house for years. I thought that I wasn’t going to fit in or be friends with many of the girls in the house. But, as the semester went on I realized the treasure that my housemates were. As I got to hang out with the girls in my house, I was able to better appreciate them and their personalities. This appreciation made me realize that I wanted to be better friends with these girls and not just ‘housemates.’

This is the second year I have lived in SSF and I have been able to put myself out there and create the relationships in and out of my house that I always dreamed of. I can honestly say that the girls I live with are some of my best friends. They are the people I go to when I need advice on my outfit or someone to have a deep talk with. They are the people I sit on the couch with for five hours straight and watch TV.

This past year has also helped me to appreciate getting connected inside and out of my house. I want to help the girls in my house that may be shy like I was at first, to get out into the community of the foundation. Being able to meet and socialize with people from other houses and backgrounds is one of the greatest experiences in SSF.

Being involved in SSF has made me a better person and given me such great growing experiences .I have met and become friends with so many people that I never would have been able to meet because of SSF.  I’ve been able to volunteer in the office and get to know the staff better. I have even been able to meet some of the board members that so generously help this foundation run. I now have friendships that I never could have dreamed of. College is nothing like I expected it to be. It is better than I ever imagined because of SSF.

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


“Attending college was never a question, only a matter of how it would be funded.” – Brooke Williams

Name: Brooke Williams

School: University of Florida

House: Mack Tyner, Jr. Scholarship House

Year: Fall 2014 – Current


As I reminisce over the life experiences that I have faced (single parent home, very limited funds) and overcame to become the person I am today, it brings back many memories that I initially viewed as obstacles. I now realize those obstacles were stepping stones in shaping me into the person I am today: Brooke Chappelle Williams, a 20 yr. old sophomore, majoring in Public Relations at the University of Florida. Growing up in a single parent home in Orlando, and later moving to Tallahassee, Florida, I realized early my passion to be a servant leader (or my passion to serve). Optimistic, positive, inquisitive and eager to learn new things has always been a way of life for me. Attending college was never a question, only a matter of how it would be funded.


My mother always taught me that all things are possible if only you believe and work hard to achieve your goals. As a result, I developed a plan early to reach my initial goal of being able to attend college because I knew that college was not an option, but a necessity for me to succeed in life. This plan began in middle school, continued through high school, and even continues today. My plan consists of earning good grades, being very active in school and the community, and continuously researching scholarship opportunities. Striving for excellence in every endeavor, being a compassionate team player, having enthusiasm for new challenges, and being prepared to learn from success and failures along the way became a way of life for me.   Success is always good, but failure can be a wonderful thing too if the experience teaches you a life lesson. Failures often shattered my assumption of success and temporarily dismantled my confidence, but it also transformed me into the optimistic person I am today.  I have learned that nothing is guaranteed, no matter how much it is deserved or desired, and you do not become a failure until you do not have the courage to try again. I decided long ago not to be a failure but to learn from my experiences.

As a result of applying and winning Best and Brightest in the category of “Leadership” in the Leon County School district, I was awarded a Scholarship from the Southern Scholarship Foundation. Though I had received additional scholarships, without the scholarship I received from the Southern Scholarship Foundation, I would not be where I am today. Being a student and living in the Tyner-Mack Scholarship house for the last two years, has afforded me the opportunity of meeting wonderful students from all walks of life, and we have all become one large family. Having the responsibility of chores and having regular house meetings really keeps us all connected, and makes life away from home easier than I ever imagined.

What makes the SSF scholarship so remarkable and significant to me is the emphasis placed on the students’ needs and passions. My financial need is evident, but even more evident is my passion to fulfill my educational and career goals. As I relate back to the mission of Southern Scholarship Foundation, “Education for Life,” I envision lifelong lessons  not only in my classrooms and the community, but also inside the Mack Tyner and other scholarship houses. I am so thankful to be a resident of SSF and to have a community of individuals who support and love each other. I am grateful for the scholarship, my housemates and the priceless memories that I will forever cherish.

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


“You are never alone once you are accepted into the Southern Scholarship Foundation.” – Isrrael Peña

Name: Isrrael Peña (SSF Alumnus)

School: University of Florida

House: Williams

Year: Fall 2011 – Spring 2016

When I was younger my parents always stressed the importance of my education. During my upbringing, they persevered for their children and worked nine-to-five jobs to provide a decent life in this country. They came to the United States in 1993 as Mexican immigrants with only a third grade education.

I have been watching them all my life, never questioning their hardship. When I reached my senior year in high school, it became time to think about college. My parents were unable to sit down with me and talk about the college process. I felt without knowing, my parents were unable to guide me. Nonetheless, with the motivation of making my family proud, I sought help from advisers and teachers. I made lasting relationships with my community as I became highly involved in high school. I was integrating myself into my community as I volunteered in campus clubs, tutored after school for work and focused on excelling in my academics.

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Because I knew that my parents were unable to afford my college education, I was motivated to apply for scholarships. I also started to consider attending a community college. I knew that I’d be the first in my family to move away from home for a higher education, so I wanted to take all the precautions to ensure I was successful. At the time, the University of Florida (UF) was my dream school. I wanted to be practical and attended Santa Fe College, a community college near UF, for my associate’s degree. I had toured Santa Fe College my junior year in high school and I noticed all the resources they offered their students to become successful and transfer over to the university.

Upon my last semester in high school, I received a call from Teresa Turner, the Director of Student Affairs for Central Florida. She was calling to tell me about my acceptance into the Southern Scholarship Foundation. I was so overjoyed from receiving her call that I ran circles around my mom and told her that I had somewhere to stay for school.


SSF was my anchor. I took on SSF with such an open mind and open heart that I knew I would be gaining more than just a place to stay. I created networks, friends and connections on and around campus. SSF nurtured me into the outspoken, confident man I am today. I became too familiar with the phrase “ties that bind” because living in SSF fostered brotherhood among the house I was placed in. We cared for one another’s success.

It is a wonderful experience to see your college brothers in their senior year graduate. You are never alone once you are accepted into the Southern Scholarship Foundation. I don’t know where I would be or who’d I become without my years in SSF. The friendships, the memories, and the continuous support that the foundation provided was a privilege and a blessing.

After graduating with my bachelor’s degree in Advertising, I wish to spend a year with my family. I have been away for too long and would like to enjoy the time I have with them before moving to California and working for advertising agencies there.

Sponsorship opportunities are available for you to be a part of Isrrael’s, and many others, Education for Life journey.

Learn more here: http://bit.ly/SSFSponsorship

“Living the life I lived growing up, we never really had a home, but I’m so thankful to say I have a home, and that my home is Tyner.” – Tiffany Walton

Name: Tiffany Walton (SSF Alumna)

School: University of Florida

House: Mack Tyner, Jr. Scholarship House

Year: Fall 2014 – Spring 2016

My name is Tiffany Jean Walton, and I am 19 years old, and I am from Jasper, FL. I live in the Mack Tyner Scholarship House in Gainesville, FL. Currently I am attending Santa Fe College as a linguistics major, and I will transfer to the University of Florida in the Spring of 2017. After graduating from the University of Florida, I plan to teach English to kids in other countries, and the main focus being in Central and South America.

Tiffany Walton

Growing up it was always my mom, my sister, my brother, and I, and we were always moving somewhere. We have been through the fire together, and we never gave up on each other.  My mom got pregnant with me when she was 18, and she had me when she was 19, and in the midst of her pregnancy my dad decided to walk out of her life, so one day when I was 9 years old, I decided I wanted to meet my real dad. I remember telling my mom “mama I want to meet my daddy”, and I remember her telling me “baby he is in prison, but you can write him a letter, but don’t be sad if you don’t get a letter back from him”. That same day I wrote a letter to send to this man I had never met in my life, my dad! I was so excited, and I waited to get a response, and soon I received a letter in the mail from him. I remember the excitement I felt that day, and we talked for months; however, shortly after we had contact, my mom and the man she had recently married separated, so I had no contact with my dad because we had to move out of the house. We moved into one of my mom’s friend’s house, and shortly after, I moved to my aunt’s house, and my brother and sister went to live with their dad, and my mom stayed at her friend’s house.

During all the chaos, I had to move with my younger brother and sister into their dad’s girlfriend’s house, and things where good for about a month and a half, and then their dad started being brutally abusive with my little brother and I. For 8 months I watched my little brother, who was 6 years old, being slammed into walls, punched in the stomach, choked, and so many other horrible things. For 8 months I cried, and would be snatched around by my hair, cussed at, and yelled at. I was so depressed, and I hated everyday that I was awake. I would call my mom everyday who at this point was in Colorado, and I would tell her “mama he beat us again today, and if he does it again I am going to kill myself”, and in the midst of all this, my mom called me on October 23, 2007 and told me my dad had died.

At that point so much was going on in my life that I was so numb to pain because I had grown such a tolerance for both physical and emotional pain. I remember saying to myself that night “wow, I never got to hug him, and see his face, and I will never have that opportunity”, and I went on about my life. As I grew older, I began noticing that I desired a father figure in my life, and I would see young girls with their dads, and I would always whisper to myself “I wonder what it feels like to have a man in your life who does not beat you, cuss at you, yell at you, and call you names, but instead he loves you, he takes care of you, he takes you on father-daughter dates, and he encourages you”. I never had this experience, but I am so thankful that some children do have these experiences.

Many things happened, and my sister, my brother, and I made it to Colorado to live with my mom, and a year and a half later we made it to Ft. Stockton, TX, and then back to Florida. I was in seventh grade when we moved back to Florida, and I was a crazy young girl. I was so bitter, hateful, aggressive, and I had many emotional issues. I went to a conference called Ski Invasion my 8th grade year of middle school. It was a Christian conference that my youth group at the time was attending, so I went with the intentions of hanging out, and maybe learning a little, but little did I know my whole life would change! One of the nights after the worship service, I gave my life to Jesus! Yes, I confessed with my mouth that Jesus is Lord, and I believed it in my heart! After the conference, I went back home, and I was discouraged because I knew I was going back to the same ole’ same ole’, and I thought man everything will be different, but it wasn’t. I began making the same choices I was making before I went the conference, but that all changed the summer after I finished eighth grade. During that summer, I was sitting in my room, and I remember so clearly the Holy Spirit told me “Tiffany, if you do not begin choosing to follow me and my ways, you are going to end up an alcoholic, a drug addict, in jail, and pregnant”, and ever since that day, my life has never been the same. I began to seek the Lord, and draw near to him, and he drew near to me. I began reading the Bible, and understanding who God really was, and I mean I sought after him with my whole heart. When I realized that I was now a child of the kingdom, I realized I was not fatherless anymore, but I had been adopted, and a price was paid for me, and I realized that what Jesus did on the cross was for people like me. I was so lost, broken, hurt, depressed, abandoned, bitter, angry, hateful, and just crushed by the things I had been through, but Jesus healed me of all those things. Jesus set me free, and I am free of the hurt, of the depression, of the abandonment, of the bitterness, of the hatefulness, of the weariness, and insecurity. Jesus mended my broken heart, and he made this girl brand new, and now by his grace and how he has loved me, I am loving, kind, caring, forgiving, joyful, peaceful, good, and I have self-control. Now I can love people unconditionally because of the love I have been given.

When I gave my life to Jesus, my whole perspective on life changed. I used to have no vision for myself, I told myself “I’ll stay in this town for the rest of my life, and settle down, and just do like everyone else I’m surrounded by because it’s the easy way”, but the Lord knew the plans he had for me, and my senior year of high school I prayed and asked the Lord “what do I do Lord?” because I did not want to stay in Jasper, so much stuff was happening, and I knew it would not be wise for me to stay there, and instantly the Lord began speaking to me about college, but I tried to ignore it for a while because I thought there was no way possible for me to go to college. I did not have finances for anything, not even to pay to send applications in to universities, and I was very discouraged by this. I thought “well, I’ll go into the military”, but the Lord instantly told me that was a no, so I scratched that out real quick.


My best friend and I were sitting at lunch one day talking and eating, and I asked her where did her brother live, and she told me SSF, and I asked her what it was, and she explained it vaguely to me. That day I went home, and I searched Southern Scholarship Foundation, and I read through the “about us link”, and I was so excited to have read what I read that day. I began praying and seeking the Lord for whether or not I should apply because I had never done anything like this before, and the Lord told me to apply, so I did. Time went on after getting all the information for the application done and turned in, and I remember checking my e-mail everyday for and e-mail from SSF, and I was so anxious and excited that it seemed like it took forever, and then eventually I was receiving e-mails from Mrs. Turner, and then soon enough I was scheduled for an interview. I went to the interview praying that I would make a good impression, and that I would get this scholarship. And I remember leaving saying “I wonder what Mrs. Turner thought of me?” because I knew if I did not get this scholarship, I would not be going to college, and the Lord gave me so much peace, and he told me “you do not need to worry, and you do not need to make a plan B because I know your needs, and you will get this scholarship”, so I was at peace, and soon enough I received an e-mail congratulating me on becoming part of the SSF family, and I remember jumping up and down, and being so excited because I knew this was my way out, and I knew now I would be going to college!

When I was given a tour after I was accepted, I was given my tour at Tyner, and I remember walking in, and my jaw dropped, and I was in complete awe. The beautiful light green walls, the beautiful dark brown leather couches, the dark brown shiny wooden tables, the huge bright and beautiful kitchen, the beautiful tile floor, and the glorious height of the house brought me so much excitement because it was what I imagined my future home always looking like. When I left, I kept picturing Tyner in my head, and I remember telling myself “I sure hope I live in that house, it is all I have ever wanted in a house”, and sure enough that was the house I was placed in, and I love living here. Being in SSF has helped me so much in my college life. Being a recipient of this scholarship has provided not only housing, food, utilities, and a comfortable bed to lay down in, but also a warm, loving, calm, peaceful atmosphere. I love coming home to a beautiful home and such loving ladies. Living the life I lived growing up, we never really had a home, but I’m so thankful to say I have a home, and that my home is Tyner.

Education for Life for me makes me think of two things, one of the two being the education one will receive while in college, and of course it can be used for life. The second thing Education for Life makes me think of is the education one will receive for life while living in SSF that no college/university can teach. There are certain things in life that you have to experience because no individual can teach it.

“I let my brother and sister know immediately, this was how we were going to be able to attend college.” – Ugochi Nnaji

Name: Ugochi Nnaji

School: Florida State University

House: La Verne Weddle Pilot Scholarship House, House Manager

Year: Fall 2014 – Present


I truly believed that it was a blessing from God that I found SSF in my senior year of high school. As the oldest of triplets my mom always told my brother, sister and I that she could not pay for all of us to attend college so it was up to the three of us to make the necessary grades and GPA to get our schooling paid for.When it came time to apply to universities and get college plans in order, it seemed like not even our good grades and high academic achievements could pull us through financially. As I looked at and added up the cost of living on campus and tuition, the reality of what my mom had been telling us really set in. Each of us began a frantic search for any kind of scholarship we could find to make it through, what was then, the next four years of my life.

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We applied for scholarship after scholarship to no avail and I became a little discouraged. Were we dreaming? Was this even possible? I really started to hate the fact that money had to have the final say in everything. In another disheartened search online, I happened to come across the southern scholarship foundation; I read through the description thinking this almost sounded too good to be true: rent-free housing, a one-time payment per semester, with food included?! I let my brother and sister know immediately, this was how we were going to be able to attend college.

My brother & sister packed their bags for UF and I packed my bags for FSU and we were off to live out this dream.

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Fast forward two years later to the present, I am now in my fourth semester as a college student. I have experienced many ups and downs in the past two years, such as becoming an Orientation Leader and the bittersweet moment of changing my major, but nothing has been better than having my Pilot family to share these memories with.

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Living in SSF and serving as House Manager for this semester has already proved to be extremely rewarding in a number of fashions. Being a House Manager isn’t about being in charge or being the boss, but it’s an opportunity to grow and make a positive impact on your house. I have developed a drive for my house to be running smoothly and also for my residents to be living comfortably.

Each day I learn a new definition of the SSF motto “Education for Life.”

But the one that sticks with me the most is: the myriad of un-teachable life lessons and experiences provided through community living that contribute to our overall personal growth and development as young adults. The Southern Scholarship Foundation has provided more for me than daily meals and a place to live, it’s my home and I am truly grateful and blessed to call myself an SSFer!

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Sponsorship opportunities are available for you to be a part of Ugochi’s, and many others, Education for Life journey.

Learn more here: http://bit.ly/SSFSponsorship

“SSF was the helping hand I had been looking for to pull me over this hump.” -Sergio Gomez

School: Florida State University

House: Rotary Scholarship House

Year: Spring 2016-Current

Since I can remember, my education always topped my list of priorities. All throughout high school I would bend over backwards to maintain the high standards I set for myself academically. At first this determinism was instilled in me through the constant and relentless nagging of my parents, but quickly I realized what all my hard work would be going towards: a college education. As I grew older I became more independent in motivating myself to achieve all that I could in high school and open as many doors as I could moving forward into my college career. It came time to apply to universities and my first application sent was for Florida State University. I had received acceptance letters for a couple other schools but I knew I wanted to be a Seminole.

My focus was now solely concentrated on obtaining a higher education, a step I have been preparing to take my entire life. It seemed unreal how close I was to reaching it, but unfortunately this path, like any other, was riddled with road blocks and hurdles. The largest wall to climb appeared to be the financial portion of attending Florida State especially without any eligibility for federal or state aid due to unfortunate circumstances. But up to that point, life had shown me that any mountain, however large and ominous, can be summited and finding a way to fund my education was only an obstacle not a dead end. Housing at FSU is the most substantial expense putting aside tuition.

The Southern Scholarship Foundation was the helping hand I had been looking for to pull me over this hump.

I was incredibly fortunate to have two cousins, Sara and Elisa Gomez, who are current SSF residents as well and were the ones that presented me with this remarkable opportunity to not only take a heavy burden off my family financially, but also an amazing way to learn about myself and others in a community of students all with the same purpose:

to achieve any definition of success they strive for.Sergio headshot

Unfortunately, I learned about SSF too late for me to apply for the fall semester of my freshman year. The first semester in a university setting far from home is a challenge in and of itself but adding the substantial weight of the housing cost proved to be especially difficult, not just for me, but for my family back home. It became clear that if I couldn’t find somewhere else to live then going back home to Orlando would become a real possibility. I didn’t hesitate to apply to SSF as soon as I could for the following semester. After the suspenseful period of waiting I received an acceptance letter stating that I was a recipient of SSF’s housing scholarship and that I would be a future resident at one of their houses in the spring. The weight of a boulder lifted off me and, subsequently, my parents when I told them the good news. Our prayers had been answered!

Sponsorship opportunities are available for you to be a part of Sergio’s, and many others, Education for Life journey.

Learn more here: http://bit.ly/SSFSponsorship

“I didn’t expect to have fun but before I knew it we were all laughing and playing board games and charades.” -Erika Willis

Name: Erika Willis

School: Florida A&M University

House: Zenon C.R. Hansen Scholarship House

Year: Fall 2015-Present

Even at the beginning of my senior year of high school, college still seemed like a long ways off into the future. Therefore, after I received my acceptance letter from my top collegiate choice, Florida A&M University, I didn’t want to do anything except cruise through the rest of my senior year without a care in the world. However, about half way through my senior year, an unexpected conversation arose between me and my parents that suddenly forced me to shake off my ‘Senioritis’ and start making some serious plans about college. One of those plans had to be about where I was going to live, because during that discussion, my mother explained to me that she’d be retiring and moving back to her hometown in Alabama with my father just a few short months after I graduated high school and that the home that we currently lived in was going to be put up for lease. Of course I was happy to hear that my parents were going to have the opportunity to enjoy retirement after having to put up with raising four kids for all these years, but I couldn’t help but feel a little overwhelmed about my sudden predicament. Paying for my college tuition, books, and other miscellaneous expenses already posed a challenge for me, but I knew that adding dorm or apartment fees would just be too much for me to handle on my own. I realized that I couldn’t go to my parents to help me pay my-way while I was in college, because they’d be on fixed income and they had their own financial burdens to take care of as well.

I agonized over my dilemma for months while I relentlessly searched and applied for as many scholarships as I could. Although as graduation day slowly began to grow closer and closer, I stared to lose hope that I’d ever find a solution. Fortunately, a solution came just in the nick of time. I heard about the Southern Scholarship Foundation (SSF) after being made aware that I was a finalist for the Florida Best and Brightest Scholarship Program, which was a scholarship that I’d applied for at the beginning of my senior year. After researching SSF, I knew that I just had to apply. A few days after submitting my application and undergoing my interview, I was informed that Best and Brightest finalists would be notified about the SSF housing scholarship at the Best and Brightest Award ceremony. When the time came during ceremony for the finalists who’d won the SSF scholarship to be announced, I sat with my fingers crossed; hoping that Barby would call my name. When she finally did, I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed with emotion.


I can honestly say that applying to SSF was the best decision that I’ve ever made. After moving into my scholarship house, not only have my financial burdens been eased, but I’ve managed to grow as an individual and learn valuable life lessons.

For instance, I never thought that I could bare living with anyone other than my parents, let alone about a dozen strangers. However, living at Hansen with my house mates has shown me that I’m in fact a strong person who’s capable of living independently and it’s also taught me how essential cooperation, communication, and respect are to developing and maintaining healthy relationships with those around me. My most memorable moment at Hansen was my first house social with Knight House and Florida Retail. It was my first semester there and I didn’t really know anyone. I didn’t expect to have fun but before I knew it we were all laughing and playing board games and charades.

I’m so thankful for SFF, not just for the helping me financially but for also helping me establish new friendships.

Sponsorship opportunities are available for you to be a part of Erika’s, and many others, Education for Life journey.

Learn more here: http://bit.ly/SSFSponsorship

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