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Black Leadership Network Awards 12 Scholarships

For University of South Florida sophomore Shaheim Ricketts, earning a scholarship seemed unattainable. He had applied for a few entering his freshman year of college, but when he didn’t receive any of them he became discouraged and considered giving up on the idea altogether. Luckily for Ricketts, he gave it another shot.

After being told by an advisor to visit USF Foundation’s Scholarship website, Ricketts began looking through the various scholarships available to students, researched a few that that he qualified for and applied, answering questions and writing an essay. 

This Feb. 18, Ricketts earned the first scholarship of his collegiate career at the Black Leadership Network (BLN) Soiree. The event, held at Traditions Hall on the USF Tampa campus, brought together donors, university officials, students and their families to celebrate the 12 BLN Foundation Scholarship awardees for the 2018-19 academic year.

“Receiving one of these is amazing,” said Ricketts. “It reinstated my belief and desire to pursue scholarships again.”

The endowment was established by Ashley Butler, a 2012 USF graduate and founder of the Tampa-based business Unique Otto. Her efforts, along with those of other local black business owners, including Jerry Bell, Ed Narin and Anddrikk Frazier, have helped raise over $80,000 for the University’s first solely African-American scholarship fund.

“I’m a product of people looking out for people,” Butler said. “My grandmother always said, when you get blessed, it’s so you can be a blessing.”

Frea’Drika Curry, a freshman majoring in Health Sciences, was just checking her email when she found out she had been chosen as a recipient. The first of her 14 siblings to attend college, the money will help ease the financial burden and allow Curry to pursue her dream of becoming a doctor.

“I was inspired by my donor Erica Daley, and hope I can give back to the community myself one day,” she said.

2018-2019 Black Leadership Network Scholarship Recipients:

The endowment will provide the inaugural twelve recipients with $1,000 for each year they attend the University of South Florida, up to five years. To learn more about the Black Leadership Network scholarship fund, or to give a gift, please visit the BLN giving page

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