FOS students take part in UF’s Oral History Program, documenting their personal histories

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The impact of a program for first-generation students to attend the University of Florida is being chronicled in their own words.

The Samuel Proctor Oral History Program is conducting oral history interviews with students, past and present, who are Florida Opportunity Scholars. The goal is to document some of the program’s early participants.

Florida Opportunity Scholars provides an opportunity for a college education to students who otherwise would be unable to afford it, and it strives to have all recipients graduate at the same rate as other undergraduates. The scholarship, which is given to about 1,400 students, guarantees 100 percent of tuition, plus additional expenses such as meals, housing, transportation, books and fees.

“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,” said UF President Bernie Machen. “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 interviews will allow FOS students to share their stories and we hope their stories will inspire others by showing that college is within reach regardless of your economic situation,” Pendleton said.

One of the interviews was with Shelby Powell, an inaugural member of Florida Opportunity Scholars who has since graduated from UF.

“I think that the opportunity provided to them (the Scholars) 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,” Powell says.

Upon completion, the histories will also be available to scholars and to the public in the George A. Smathers Libraries at the University of Florida archive at http://ufdc.ufl.edu/oral.

“These oral history interviews will greatly enhance our knowledge about the intellectual biographies and academic experiences of University of Florida students,” said Paul Ortiz, director of the Proctor program.

For more information about the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, visit its Web site 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/.

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