By Andreas Butler
For Hometown News
Local high school graduates, Cheyenne Avery and Dontavius King were recently rewarded for their academic success.
Both received the Deborah Vincent Scholarship from the Florida Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (FAHRO) at the 2013 Annual Convention and Trade Show awards banquet in Orlando on Aug. 7.
Ms. Avery just graduated from Spruce Creek with a 3.1 grade point average and Mr. King from Mainland with a 3.4 GPA.
"I was very surprised because I knew that there were a lot of people applying to get it. I actually didn't think it would be me," Ms. Avery said.
"I was surprised. I know a lot of kids were trying to win it. There was a lot of competition and I honestly didn't know rather or not that I would win it," Mr. King said.
He will attend Bethune-Cookman University and study business administration while she is headed to Daytona State College to major in culinary arts.
"The money helps with tuition, which is high; especially at Bethune-Cookman," Mr. King said.
"It will help me out financially. I am still waiting on response for financial aid. It gives me a backup plan. I am also looking to work while attending school," Ms. Avery said.
Thousands of students from across Florida who live in affordable housing projects applied for the scholarship.
Applicants must have a 2.5 GPA, plan to attend a four-year or two-year school, provide a list of honors and awards, unpaid volunteer work, community service and write an essay on how affordable housing has impacted their lives.
Ms. Avery and Mr. King live in the Palmetto Park housing complex of the Daytona Beach Housing Authority.
"The scholarship helps young adults to realize their dreams and aspirations of obtaining a secondary education," said Anthony Woods, executive director of the Daytona Beach Housing Authority. "I am proud of Cheyenne and Dontavius as they garnered two of three scholarships that were awarded this year by FAHRO. The Daytona Beach Housing Authority, its board of commissioners, staff and residents ask the community to join us in applauding and supporting Cheyenne and Dontavius as they further their education."
Both also volunteer at the Neighborhood Networks Center in their complex, which provides after school assistance and tutoring for student residents.
"There are a lot of kids that don't have people pushing them at home and to have others in society and people at the Network Centers pushing kids, it's better and provides better opportunities for them," Ms. Avery said. "I plan to come back and tutor others at the Networks Center. I want them to know that others care for them and want them to excel."
"It's extremely important to provide educational opportunities," Mr. King said. "Many children are working hard and want to better themselves. Getting that secondary education will help. Scholarships are needed. Students shouldn't have to worry about going in debt to get an education by acquiring loans. I hope that I can inspire others from backgrounds like mine to strive for success in education."
Growing up in affordable housing, kids such as Dontavius and Cheyenne face varied challenges to succeed academically.
"It's a lot of simple things that are challenging. A lot of it is financial," Mr. King said. "We have to get along differently. My mother doesn't have a car, so I have to find transportation. My mother is also disabled and lives on a fixed income with most of it going towards bills. We stay prayerful and survive."
"I went through some things in high school," Ms. Avery said. "There was times that I wanted to give up, but I had people that pushed me."
Despite it all, both Mr. King and Ms. Avery stayed focused academically. They credit their mothers. Mr. King's mother is Lavetta King and Ms. Avery's is Vanessa Mosley.
"I had a God-fearing mother. I also was involved with sports, which kept me out of trouble," Mr. King said. "My football coach, Scott Wilson, was a good mentor. I had good people around me and a lot of my friends are headed in the same direction. The people you keep around you can make a difference."
"My mother stayed on me and I wanted to do better for myself," Ms. Avery said. "I want to have a career and be able to help others."
At this year's banquet, FAHRO partnered with the United Negro College Fund to provide funds for the scholarships.