For Jessica Williams, receiving the Paul & Aline Flynn Scholarship proved someone believed in her.
“I was so grateful because it was difficult for me to go to college,” says the 2011 Cypress Lakes High School graduate and a first-generation college student. “My parents didn’t go to college so they didn’t have knowledge about scholarships. I had to figure things out on my own.”
School guidance counselors helped her tap into potential funds, including the Flynn scholarship.
“I want to thank them for giving me a chance to become who I could be,” she says of the Flynns and the community foundation’s scholarship committee. “Someone read what I wrote, believed in me and really wanted me to succeed. Someone who I had never met wanted to invest in me. That kept me going.”
Williams opted to attend a local college so as not to accrue too much debt. She received a bachelor’s in communication from Florida Gulf Coast University. “My degree is my family’s degree. They are so proud of me.”
Williams was awarded a full-ride scholarship by the University of Vermont, where she’s currently working toward a master’s in the Higher Education and Student Affairs Administration graduate program.
“It’s the perfect next step for me,” William says. “I’ve always been interested in what people are saying, what they are not saying, the ways stories are being told and which voices aren’t being heard. The graduate program will help me find a way to give a platform to the voices that don’t have a platform.”
Williams is also a member of the school’s Social Justice Committee and is the first woman in six years to be named a residence director.
The Paul & Aline Flynn Scholarship was established by former community foundation executive director Paul Flynn, who was a sports journalist and president of USA Today, and his wife Aline. It is awarded to students within the five-county region who are pursuing communications or journalism degrees at a four-year accredited college and have a 3.0 GPA or higher.