AVON PARK, Fla. – Feb. 12, 2018 – SFSC student Erika Weaver-Coleman was one of 10 Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) members nationwide to receive the 2017 Pearson Scholarship for Higher Education, along with its $5,000 award. The scholarship attracted nearly 700 applicants, and recipients were announced in September 2017. Since being awarded the scholarship, Weaver-Coleman has garnered the support she needs as a student, a mother, and a future educator.

“Basically, I get a total of $5,000 awarded in three installments—$1,000 to complete an associate degree and $4,000 over two years to complete a bachelor’s degree,” she said. “I can also get free Pearson textbooks and educational materials as needed along the way, and I’m paired with a mentor who I speak with in one-on-one sessions every month via video calls.”

The Pearson Scholarship for Higher Education is awarded to PTK members who are civically engaged in their community through service and who demonstrate leadership, academic rigor, and excellence. Preference is given to first-generation college students. PTK is an international honor society for two-year colleges and academic programs.

“The $5,000 scholarship has helped me focus on college and not worry about where the money is coming from,” Weaver-Coleman said. “My husband’s a high school teacher, and we have four kids. It’s hard to juggle going to school full time with four kids. But the biggest benefit of getting this scholarship is that my children have now seen, first-hand, how mom’s put in all this hard work for college and has been rewarded.”

Because of her dedication to academics, Weaver-Coleman’s teenage children also have developed an interest in furthering their education, and together they research various universities’ programs of study and potential scholarships.

Weaver-Coleman graduates from the college in May 2018 with an Associate in Arts degree. She plans to continue her education and earn a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and specialize in Exceptional Student Education (ESE). “I’d really like to stay at SFSC and apply to the Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education program,” she said. “I’ve also researched a program at Warner University.”

A master’s degree may soon follow. “I’m leaning toward a master’s degree in cognition and learning,” she said. “I’m interested in why we learn the way we do. I’d like to see teaching as the science that it is, to take the methods of science and apply it to education.”

Weaver-Coleman’s confidence has grown, in part, because of the assistance of her Pearson mentor. “My mentor and I are well matched,” she said. “She also went through a divorce and supported her kids while going to college, and we have similar personalities. But she was a math major, and I’m taking statistics for the first time. She’s coaching me in statistics and helping me better understand that subject. I used to dread meeting with my mentor, but it soon developed into something I look forward to.”

Another component of the scholarship allows the students to post to a blog on the Pearson website, and Weaver-Coleman recently wrote “From Playing School to Becoming a Teacher: One Student’s Journey to Discovering Her Career Path” to introduce herself to her fellow Pearson scholars. The scholars can also participate in an online forum called Student Insiders that is similar to a Facebook page. “I can now easily network with current and former scholars,” she said. “I have the support of those who are in college and those who’ve already been through it.”

“Erika certainly represents the best of SFSC,” said Dr. Sonji Nicholas, SFSC PTK co-advisor and professor of sociology. “We are so proud that Erika was selected for this prestigious award.”

“I really love being part of this experience,” Weaver-Coleman said. “It’s helping me a great deal and is a constant reminder to focus on both the journey and the prize.”