Name: Erika Willis

School: Florida A&M University

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.

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