From the time she was in middle school, recent high school graduate Karla Menchu-Saban set her sights on attending Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida.
“I used to say, ‘One day I will study and graduate there,’” said the teen, who attended Lake Worth Community High School, a few miles up the road from FAU.
Her dream is coming true, and in a big way. The first-generation college student will be attending FAU this fall with all expenses paid, thanks to several scholarships.
Since her freshman year, she has participated in the JSF-funded Johnson Scholars college preparatory program at her school. The program, offered at seven high schools (10 next year) in partnership with the School District of Palm Beach County and Take Stock in Children Palm Beach County, provides mentoring and other support for students to make a successful transition to college.
Those who successfully complete the program are guaranteed a two-year tuition scholarship. However, that was just the beginning for Karla. She was named a finalist and eventual recipient of Take Stock in Children’s Leaders 4 Life Fellowship, which offers up to $40,000 for college. Only six highly motivated students from across the state of Florida were selected for this award.
(To see a video of Karla finding out she had been chosen for the fellowship, click here.)
She said that she is grateful to God and her family, friends and community for helping her to reach this point. “I hope one day I can give back, and I don’t expect anything back because it comes from my heart,” she said.
During her high school years, she maintained a high GPA while being dual enrolled in classes at Palm Beach State College. She also was involved in her school’s Air Force ROTC program.
At FAU, she plans to study education. She also has an interest in nursing and eventually would like to work in the field of pediatrics.
What advice does she have for other high school students who hope to obtain scholarships?
We all have the ability to accomplish anything. “We all have goals and dreams to accomplish,” she said. “The only way to complete that is by having your head up. Have a positive attitude and believe in yourself.”
We all can overcome any circumstance, no matter what. “I know there can be many obstacles that can hold you back, but it’s up to you overcome that issue. You must think of whom your benefiting and why are you doing it.”
Be true to yourself, and don’t be afraid to seek out guidance. “Mentors are individuals who offer support, guidance and encouragement. They help a child to build their dreams and goals.”
Among those she considers her mentors are her mother, Maria Saban; Take Stock In Children Palm Beach County Executive Director Nancy Stellway; Johnson Scholars Program Specialist Wanda Kirby; Johnson Scholars Site Coordinator Abbe Gleicher; Take Stock in Children Palm Beach County Director of Program Services Marilyn Schiavo; Palm Beach State College Post Secondary Advisor Cynthia Trager; Lake Worth High School Assistant Principal Caelethia Clemons; and her family, friends “and every individual who supported me in every aspect. They all were there from the beginning and will be there for me until the end.”
Lastly, perseverance is the key to success. “My dream came true based on my willingness to strive for excellence in my education, along with perseverance.”