By: Rich Shopes
USFSM Communications and Marketing
SARASOTA, Fla. (April 21, 2015) – Jennifer Caba said she likely wouldn’t have attended the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee if not for the scholarships that paid for much of her tuition the past two years.
Caba figured she’s received eight scholarships in that time. One, however, stands out. It’s easy to see why.
Thanks to the Clyde G. Nixon International Business Endowment Scholarship, Caba, 20, was able to travel to Poland last summer to help renovate a clinic and group home in conjunction with Habitat for Humanity.
“To help out people in need, it was an amazing experience,” the accounting and business management student said.
Scholarship donors heard several such stories Monday night as they met with scholarship recipients at the campus’ rotunda for a cocktail reception. Regional Chancellor Dr. Sandra Stone opened the reception, saying that no donation is too small or unwelcome.
“On the donor recognition panel there is the name of a donor who sent us a $1 bill with a note saying that this dollar is all that she could afford, but she wanted to put it to good use,” Stone told the group. “Whether it is a gift of $1 or $1 million, scholarships create the chance to make the future better.”
Regional Vice Chancellor for Advancement Dennis Stover, following Dr. Stone, said scholarships are critical to helping students who might not otherwise be able to attend college.
Echoing that point, he said that USF Sarasota-Manatee has awarded $500,000 in scholarships to more than 800 students over the past two years, including more than $291,000 in the current academic year.
The university manages more than $4 million in scholarship endowments with projected annual earnings of $157,000 and receives more than $200,000 annually in direct gifts, he said.
Donor Joan Nixon said she was only too happy to play her part.
Nixon’s husband, Clyde, the former chairman of Sarasota-based Sun Hydraulics, was passionate about both education and travel. After his death in 2007, family and friends established a scholarship that combined his twin loves. Students awarded Clyde G. Nixon scholarships are able to travel abroad to expand their educational horizons.
“My husband was a firm believer in international study,” Nixon said. “What it does for students is broaden their vision. It’s very important, especially in this day and age, to understand other people and experience other cultures.”
She said the fund has helped a dozen students so far, not including two who are slated to go on trips this summer.
Caba agreed the experience can be life-changing.
Her 10-day trip to Poland included a tour of the Auschwitz concentration camp. The visit helped shift her perspective on life.
“To know that they had everything taken from them … it was very moving,” she said.
Alexander Benishek, another Nixon scholarship recipient, said he was moved as well when, during a trip to Japan last summer, his group made stops at Nagasaki and Hiroshima. He glimpsed a group of school children singing at the Nagasaki memorial.
“Our professor said (the song) was about remembrance and war,” he said.
The trip included stops in Tokyo, Kyoto and an area of Fukuoka in southern Japan.
While there, the group visited a brewery where workers wore uniforms made from recycled plastic. The material was “softer than cotton,” he said.
Overall, the trip “was like being in a classroom,” he said, which is appropriate given that Benishek is studying history, sociology, government and international relations. The professor’s “whole goal was to teach about history and language and culture, and we accomplished that.”
Ashley Metelus, who graduates in December, also traveled abroad, but not on a Clyde Nixon scholarship. Two years ago, she shared part of a grant awarded to a professor who traveled to Uganda.
“It paid for my airfare. Basically, I had to pay for meals and rent,” said Metelus, who has also received a Brunch on the Bay scholarship.
For a month, the 22-year-old lived in a small, rustic house and interviewed teens and young adults afflicted by war. Her aim was to learn how the children’s education had progressed since that time and to identify common challenges.
The experience not only opened her eyes to other cultures, she said, but sparked an interest in research.
Her goal now? To become a researcher in sociology, and perhaps work toward a doctorate in psychology.
“It really opened my eyes to what we have here in America, to value the education here,” she said.
For more information on scholarships and financial aid opportunities at USFSM, please click here. If you are interested in supporting student scholarships, please contact University Advancement at (941) 359-4603