Having a chance to help others is often one of the main motivations for people like Sydney Clarke, a Bright Futures Scholarship recipient. Even though her college graduation is still a few year away, she’s not wasting any time to make her mark.
When you find a calling early in life, as Sydney Clarke did, all you need is an opportunity to prove yourself, so you can reach that goal through dedication. For Sydney, that chance came when she was awarded a Bright Futures Scholarship, the program primarily funded by the Florida Lottery to support young, talented minds to go to college and thrive in their careers. The program allows her to attend the university of her choice and to focus on her education, rather than on whether or not she will be able to pay tuition or sink into debt.
“Being a Bright Futures Scholarship recipient is everything. Since being here at the University of Florida I’ve realized what a unique opportunity it is, not worrying about how you’re going to pay for tuition, and you can just focus on your classes and succeeding, instead of thinking constantly ‘Am I going to be able to take this class? Can I afford it?’.” Sydney is currently a second year Biomedical Engineering student at the University of Florida, and though her graduation date is not until 2023, she knows exactly how she can help her community once she graduates. “I want to focus my degree on neural engineering. I want to help create neural devices to help people suffering from spinal cord injuries or muscular dystrophy or stroke paralysis. I would also like to work on a prosthetics unit for amputees or similar patients.”
But Sydney is not waiting for her degree to start doing community work and giving back. From the beginning of her college career, she’s been a part of GRIP, which stands for Generational Relief in Prosthetics, a student organization on campus that creates pro bono prosthetics for children. “We get requests from local families and also families from the South Eastern Area of the state. We also do an annual event called Hand Camp where we actually give the prosthetics that we designed to the children and we see their reactions and we see how they start to use their prosthetics and how much it really impacts their lives. That’s something that has really stood out to me.”
One of the main goals of the Bright Futures Scholarship Program is to encourage students to give back to the community, and for more than 20 years, it has helped tens of thousands of high school students with high academic achievements and a strong extracurricular life to pursue their postsecondary education. “My mom was always pushing me as I started taking tests and working on getting this scholarship, because she paid her own way through college and she was always working and trying to balance that with her studies and she always told me that she wanted me to try and go for this scholarship, because it would make my life so much easier in college, and she was definitely right, and I’m very thankful for that.”
Aside from all of her classes, she devotes time to a wide array of different extracurricular activities. “I’m also still playing soccer as a member of the UF Club soccer team, which also does a lot of regional volunteering. And I’m also a member of SWE, which is the Society of Women Engineers, and a member of Girls Who Code, which is an organization that works on teaching women different coding languages.”
But her goal has always been focused on helping others in a very concrete way. “I’ve always been fascinated by the medical field, but I never really saw myself as being a doctor,” Sydney says. She always excelled in math and science, so engineering was a path that she had on her radar. “As I was looking through degrees when I started applying to colleges, I found Biomedical Engineering, and it just seemed like the perfect fit for me because it encompasses helping patients and being a part of the medical field without necessarily being a doctor.”
For many students currently preparing themselves for an opportunity, it might feel like an uphill battle, but as Sydney knows, it pays off. “Keep pushing. Try to get the scholarship. It really makes the biggest difference. It makes your life so much easier. Study more, you’ll be shocked at how much you can improve. I put my head down and just focus on what I need to get done and just fight my way through that, and do what I need to do in order to succeed.”
The Bright Futures Scholarship is a chance to reach your goals through hard work and dedication. And in the end, as Sydney, who is just starting on her path knows, it is all worth it when the journey is part of the reward. “We have a lot of younger recipients of prosthetics through the GRIP program, most under the age of ten. So, the wonder that they get from being able to do something that they were never able to do before, and the joy that they get is just mind blowing. It feels really good to know that you’re helping those kids.”
For more information, visit http://www.flalottery.com/brightFutures
The Florida Lottery is responsible for contributing more than $38 billion to education and sending more than 880,000 students to college through the Bright Futures Scholarship Program. The Florida Lottery reinvests 99 percent of its revenue back into Florida’s economy through prize payouts, commissions to more than 13,000 Lottery retailers, and transfers to education. Since 1988, Florida Lottery games have paid more than $72.5 billion in prizes and made nearly 3,000 people millionaires.
Above content provided by the Florida Lottery.