Partner Spotlight: Black Leadership Network at the University of South Florida

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BLN’s scholarship program funded by Helios has transformed dozens of Black students’ lives 

Students of color attending predominantly white universities may experience challenges that make it difficult to complete a college degree. This includes accumulating disproportionate college debt and feeling disconnected from the campus community. The Black Leadership Network (BLN) at the University of South Florida (USF) aims to address these challenges.  

With funding from Helios Education Foundation, the BLN in 2018 created the Helios-Black Leadership Network Scholars Program and established an endowment that’s designed to provide scholarships based on academic talent to Black students who need financial support. 

Students must be incoming freshmen living in the Tampa Bay area, have a minimum 3.0 GPA and meet other requirements to qualify. They receive a $2,000 scholarship that’s renewable for up to five years. The scholars are also provided academic assistance, mentoring and other programmatic supports. 

Meet a few Helios-BLN Scholars 

Zoe Dieudonne is in her second year at USF. She is very active on and off campus, including serving as the president of the university’s all-female a capella group and supporting underserved students in a kindergarten classroom through Hillsborough County Public Schools. She has done so all while maintaining good grades and making the Dean’s List.  

Zoe is thankful for the Helios-BLN scholarship, saying, “You have assisted me in realizing my dream of attending USF and have helped me do so without the worry of financial burden.” 

After graduating in a few years, she plans to attend graduate school. Ultimately, her goal is to help improve education and inspire the next generation of scholars to develop a love for learning. 

Leomar White graduated from USF in the spring with magna cum laude honorary distinction and has a passion for public health.

He’s proud of several noteworthy achievements, including getting published in the American Journal of Mathematics and Statistics and presenting on research he conducted on pedestrian-related crashes in Hillsborough County at the American Public Health Association conference in Boston. 

Leomar is now a graduate student at USF College of Public Health, pursuing a master’s degree in global health practice and epidemiology. He says he’s “eternally grateful” for the Helios-BLN scholarship. 

Makayla Webster is studying to become a speech pathologist at USF. It’s a career she recently became interested in after volunteering at a medical center for people experiencing swallowing and voice disorders. 

Makayla says she appreciates the Helios-BLN scholarship “because it not only funds my schooling but my development as well.” She finds it especially helpful to hear experts talk about college-related topics, such as finances and mental health. 

She is on track to graduate a year early and is considering going to graduate school.