Sometimes the opportunity to pursue your goals is even a bigger deal than the goals themselves. For Pam Payano, the chance to attend college that the Bright Futures Scholarship Program created for her was enough to set her on her way. 

For a lot of people, going to college is a luxury that seems unattainable. The economic hurdles seem like too much of a burden, especially if you come from a low income household and there are siblings involved. Putting that pressure on your parents could be too much to ask, even if a higher education will most definitely give you a chance at a better life. Pam Payano, a graduate from the University of Central Florida, knows the feeling.

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“My family immigrated from the Dominican Republic in the early 90’s. My mom was always very involved in the school system and very on top of our academics, but like any other immigrant family, we faced the struggle of paying for college”. Pam has two brothers, so that struggle was significantly higher. Fortunately for the Payanos, along with thousands of other Florida families, they were not alone. “We learned the basics of what you needed to do to apply for the Bright Futures Scholarship and all three of us got 100 percent. I was actually able to go to college, and my parents didn’t have to pay a dime for my college tuition”.

Without the resources she and her family were able to get through the Bright Futures Scholarship, it would have been an even steeper uphill battle. But once Pam was able to secure the economic help she needed, she showed her brothers the way. “It was great, just knowing that I had this opportunity that was available to me, to be able to go to any school that I wanted to and really get a top notch education. I think I was more excited when I got the scholarship than I was getting into the university”.

Although she was undecided at first, she soon realized what this opportunity could entail for her career and her goals. “I chose Communications and International Relations as my field of study because I wanted to find a way to connect with more people and be a resourceful person that knows how to speak and communicate to different culture groups, and different types of people, whatever their background, whatever their socioeconomic situation”.


Putting her mark on the map

After graduating, Pam found a way to give back to her community and shine a light on some of the aspects of her hometown that she feels closer to her heart, working with the city of Miami in promoting the heritage neighborhoods and all the diversity that the city has to offer. “I currently work at the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau as a Senior Management Program Development, and my role is making sure that the heritage neighborhoods throughout Miami, like Little Havana, Overtown, West Coconut Grove, are included in all of our marketing initiatives”.

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The idea behind this initiative is that whoever visits Miami not only goes to the beaches, but also can explore the culture within these neighborhoods, something that is often overlooked in favor of more glitzy destinations. These communities are not only the heart and soul of the city, but important cultural hubs. “Our department started with just four neighborhoods and my goal has been to expand that and has actually expanded to thirteen and letting people know about the incredible places within the city. It’s not only for the tourist to know where to go, but also for the locals to learn to appreciate their own city”.

More than a tool

Having the Bright Futures Scholarship not only meant that Pam would be able to attend college. It was deeper than that. “Aside from the books and the money to pay for college, the Bright Futures Scholarship gave us hope”.

Her parents probably could’ve made it work somehow, but it would’ve been much more difficult, possibly putting them into debt and maybe having to choose which of their children would and would not go to college. Removing that hurdle from the picture allowed Pam, a very diligent student, to just focus on her work. “It opened all those doors for me, for my brothers, my cousins… Even my husband is a Bright Futures Scholar. It allowed us to feel that we could do anything without the pressure of figuring out finances. My focus was just my studies and being my best self. We worked hard for it, but it was definitely a blessing”.

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The Florida Bright Futures Scholarship Program was created by the Florida Legislature and is funded primarily by the Florida Lottery. Since the program’s inception in 1997, the Lottery has contributed more than $6.2 billion to help send over 840,000 students to college. 

Above content provided by the Florida Lottery.

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