March 14, 2011 — Her friends and schoolmates had already started to file out of the University of Miami’s Newman Alumni Center, the reception they had attended as a group now over. But rather than join them, Dashawna Fussell-Ware stayed behind, wiping tears of joy from her face as she reached for her cell phone.
She didn’t want to wait until she returned to her room at Mahoney Residential College to call her grandmother. Her good news just couldn’t wait: an $8,000 scholarship would help her dream of earning a college degree come true.
“She’s always been my rock, my best friend,” said Fussell-Ware of 63-year-old grandmother Judy. “That’s why I wanted to call her right after the ceremony.”
The cell phones of 16 other UM students were undoubtedly busy that evening, as UM’s Woodson-Williams-Marshall Association and the Black Alumni Society awarded them more than $55,000 in scholarship funds, providing much-needed aid that will help them graduate from college.
“Financial constraints often interfere with a student’s ability to continue their studies,” said Renee Dickens Callan, director of the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs, which also sponsored the event. “The scholarships distributed here this evening are important because they help students continue their collegiate journey.”
For Fussell-Ware, that journey has sometimes been marked by bumps in the road. A sophomore majoring in human and social development and creative writing, she used to think the cost of higher education coupled with her family’s limited resources put college out of reach.
But she persevered, taking strength from her grandmother, who raised her, and support from nine siblings. Now, with her recent $8,000, the highest individual amount awarded that evening, “I’m pretty sure I’ll graduate a Miami Hurricane,” she said.
The first in her family to attend college, she wants others to learn what it takes to apply to a university. She is currently competing for the Ms. UM title, running on a platform of creating more services to educate high school students about the college selection and application process and scholarships that are available to them.
Edmund Abaka, an associate professor who is president of the WWMA, an organization that promotes strategies for the recruitment and retention of black faculty members and administrators and serves as a resource for black students at UM, said the scholarships not only provide financial support to the students, “they also promote academic excellence. All of the students who applied for the scholarships are at the top of their class,” he said. “And when they receive them, we’re just as proud and happy as the students.”
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