J'Vonne Graham

J’Vonne Graham

AVON PARK, Fla. – Nov. 7, 2023 – South Florida State College (SFSC) student, J’Vonne Graham, aspires to become a nurse one day. In the meantime, he’s in the midst of his clinicals at a local hospital while working toward his certificate as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA). To help fund his education, he recently received a scholarship provided through the Edward K. Roberts Community College Fund and the SFSC Foundation.

The Edward K. Roberts Community College Fund was established by Roberts as a legacy to support Florida’s community colleges and other charitable organizations. Managed by the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, the Fund continues Roberts’ vision of making higher education a priority, particularly for those motivated to seek a better life for themselves.

A $90,000 grant from the Community Foundation of Sarasota County was awarded to the SFSC Foundation in May 2023 to benefit part-time students and student-parents who are attending SFSC.

SFSC’s grant is designated to aid students who attend college part time and may not qualify for other forms of financial aid and students who are parents, whether single or married. Individual students may receive up to a maximum of $2,500 through the end of the grant period, March 2024. The grant covers tuition, housing, books, childcare, transportation, and needs that would otherwise prevent students from attending college.

Graham, who recently became the father of twin girls, sees his participation in the CNA program as a means to helping other people in need and as a stepping stone to a bright future.

“My mom worked as a CNA and provided for us when I was growing up,” he said. “My sister was a CNA and moved on to become a licensed practical nurse (LPN). I thought, ‘If they can do it and succeeded in providing for me and their kids, I can do it.’”

Graham said that the greatest day of his life was the day his twins were born. “I want them to have a great childhood like I did and I want them to be proud of me. I want them to say, ‘That’s my dad.’”

Graham is no stranger to assisting others with health concerns. “It comes natural to me,” he said. “I helped my grandma when she was sick. My grandpa had a stroke in 2013. I’ve been helping him since I was in middle school. When he thanks me, I say, ‘You don’t need to thank me. You did so much for me when I was small. I’m glad to do it.’ What I like about working with my patients is the joy in their faces when you come in and ask them how they’re doing. You can make them smile.”

“Scholarships play a crucial role in supporting nursing assistants since the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) does not cover short-term training programs,” said Tina Gottus, director of corporate and community education at SFSC. “Scholarships alleviate financial burdens, allowing students to focus more on their studies and less on financial stress. Nursing assistants are an essential part of the healthcare system. By providing scholarships, the quality of the nursing workforce can be improved, as it attracts motivated and talented individuals who might not have been able to afford education otherwise. This, in turn, leads to improved patient care and outcomes. Scholarships can help address workforce shortages in the healthcare sector by incentivizing more individuals to pursue careers as nursing assistants. With an aging population and increasing demand for healthcare services, it is crucial to encourage more people to enter the field.”

“Five years ago, I wouldn’t have seen myself in the CNA program,” Graham said. “Sometimes, a situation changes your life and the world becomes bigger. You’re only in your 20s one time. You shouldn’t have to go back and say, ‘I wish I had done this or done that.’ Don’t take things for granted. If you try and fail, it’s easier to accept. If you don’t try and you fail, that’s on you. I have to take initiative in my life. If I can do it, anybody can do it.”

Scholarship recipients are identified by SFSC’s Office of Financial Aid. Prior to being awarded Edward K. Roberts funding, students must complete the FAFSA. For the Edward K. Roberts Scholarship application, go to the SFSC website to the Financial Aid Forms at  https://bit.ly/45YqcA5

For more information about scholarships, contact Jamie Bateman, vice president for institutional advancement and external affairs, at 863-453-3133 or email foundation@southflorida.edu.

For information about the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, visit cfsarasota.org.