When I had to stand in a food pantry line with a brown paper bag, I wept. One semester into my degree, I held canned beans and granola bars in my hands and asked myself with both embarrassment and relief: “How do things so seemingly insignificant determine my future?” While being recognized for my achievements at school, I faced financial instability and food insecurity at home. This is the reality for some of my peers, including many who hold leadership roles and rank highest in their class.

My name is Kaylin MacDonald and I am one of the founders of the Dale Mabry Student Leader Scholarship. As a first-generation, low-income college student, Hillsborough Community College is my bridge to a better future and my escape from generational poverty. I chose college because of the unforgiving world that my parents struggle through without degrees. It is the only world I have known. My experiences here have prepared me for transfer to a university and eventually graduate school, all despite my circumstances.

Kay with Senator Janet Cruz and Dale Mabry SGA members

(Kay with Senator Janet Cruz and Dale Mabry SGA members)

This Spring I will be graduating with over 400 hours of service to my school and transfer applications out to some of the highest ranked universities in the nation, something I never thought was possible before, all thanks to Hillsborough Community College. I wonder, as a soon-to-be alumni of HCC, how we can help the student that will take my place.

The Dale Mabry Student Leader Scholarship is a student-led scholarship initiative at HCC, started by several students who have contributed to our college while also experiencing financial hardships. Our mission is to recognize students for their dedication in serving the campus and their community through leadership. In this series of emails, we will be highlighting stories of students who have overcome the odds against them—the same students we aim to help through a legacy of tuition assistance.

As the first endowment of its kind, the scholarship’s start-up requires a hefty $10,000 and relies solely upon gracious donor contributions and student fundraising. Every dollar contributed is one-step closer to making the lives of these leaders a bit easier while they pursue their dreams, so we ask for your support in empowering them along the way.

Students juggle full-time classes, full-time jobs, internships, and even caring for dependents, all while participating in extra-curricular activities. If we have the drive to complete college while going above and beyond despite these barriers, imagine what our futures will hold.