A difficult decision of choosing the right college might be a little bit easier for two Gainesville High School students.
Jorge Gonzalez and Jhaiquashia Peterson were awarded scholarships to Florida A&M University in Tallahassee on Tuesday evening at the eighth annual Generation Inspiration Youth Leadership Academy opening program and scholarship ceremony at Gainesville High School.
Generation Inspiration is a youth leadership organization that provides Gainesville High School students with life skills, volunteer experience and opportunities to learn about the history and economy of Gainesville and Hall County. More than 300 students participated in the program last summer. Students are nominated to participate by their counselors and meet each Saturday during summer break at the Beulah Rucker Museum in Gainesville.
Ashley Bell founded the program in 2005. The program has awarded more than $250,000 in scholarships since it was founded.
William Hudson, vice president for student affairs of the university, presented the scholarships.
Hudson praised the school and parents for supporting the students and encouraging them to strive for a college education.
“The support that I see in this room and from this community really makes me proud,” Hudson said. “It’ll keep me coming back to Gainesville because students with that kind of support, they need that when they get to college. The support they get in elementary, middle and high school really shows you what this community values.”
Peterson accepted a scholarship for $12,000 to the university.
She participated in Generation Inspiration during her sophomore year and was surprised to learn about the scholarship.
“I was happy because I wasn’t sure where I was going to go yet,” Peterson said.
She said she intends to become a doctor and will likely accept the scholarship.
Gonzalez, who was not in attendance, was awarded a scholarship for $71,000.
Three local educators, Superintendent Merrianne Dyer, Principal LaCrisia Larkin and Gainesville City Councilwoman and former French teacher Myrtle Figueras were also recognized for their service to the school.
Bell encouraged the students to come back home to Gainesville after they finish their educations and help make the community a better place for the next generation.
Radio show host Frank Ski spoke to the more than 200 students and families at the ceremony. He encouraged the students to go after their dreams and not to be discouraged by others.
He also encouraged parents to listen to their children and encourage them to follow their own passions.
“God wants you to be individual,” Ski told the group. “You come from your parents but as you get older you leave your parents and you move on. You are an individual. You are not your parents. You are you and you have a dream. After you get that dream, you get a passion and you try to fulfil that dream.”