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.

Israel blog photo

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.

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