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Oral History Program Interviews Florida Opportunity Scholars

The Samuel Proctor Oral History Program (SPOHP) is conducting oral history interviews with University of Florida students, both past and present, who are Florida Opportunity Scholars. SPOHP conducted student-to-student interviews of first-generation college students who were able to attend UF with a scholarship from Florida Opportunity Scholars. The goal of these oral histories is to document some of the early participants in this program.

Florida Opportunity Scholars allows students to get a college education who otherwise would not be able to afford it, and it strives to have all its recipients graduate at the same rate as the rest of the undergraduate student body. The scholarship, which is given to about 1,400 students, pays for 100 percent of tuition, plus additional expenses such as meals, housing, transportation, books and fees.

UF President Bernie Machen said, "If you think about it, Florida’s history is about people seeking new beginnings and overcoming long odds to find success. Those two things describe our Florida Opportunity Scholars to a tee, so it makes complete sense to include their stories in the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program. Years from now, researchers will look at those students’ oral histories while tracing the early years of future presidents and governors, scientists and artists, and entrepreneurs. Their stories are Florida’s story.”

Leslie Pendleton, Director of Florida Opportunity Scholars, said the interviews will focus on how the program has helped its recipients, and how it has affected their lives. "The program will share these stories with current and future students in order to motivate and inspire them and to validate their situations,” she said. “This shows them that they can be successful in college even if they have gone through hardships.”

One of the oral history interviews was with Shelby Powell, an inaugural member of Florida Opportunity Scholars who has since graduated from UF. He said, "I think the Florida Opportunity Scholars…takes what would be otherwise a fairly homogenous mixture of students and it really diversifies it with different thought and different race and backgrounds. Those students who have come from adversity, I really feel that they provide a very different experience and a different way of thinking about things…I think that the students who can’t necessarily do it on their own, like the financial aspect of it, or who get help from FOS, I think they have all the more ambition to do great things. I think that the opportunity provided to them really allows them to go on and just become more than good, productive members of society but to give back also, because to whom much is given much is expected.”

Upon completion, these oral histories will also be available to scholars and to the public in the George A. Smathers Libraries at the University of Florida archive.

For more information about the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, visit its website at http://web.history.ufl.edu/oral/ or call 352-392-7168. Additional information about Florida Opportunity Scholars is available at http://fos.ufsa.ufl.edu/.

Further Information

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Writer

Katelyn McKey, kmckey@ufl.edu, Samuel Proctor Oral History Program

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