Markecio Simmons

During high school, some students live in such extreme situations they wonder if they will ever really make it to college. This was particularly true for Markecio Simmons from Ocala, Fla. who was homeless much of his high school career. His past was not always easy, but the struggle and ability to overcome has helped Markecio be successful at the University of Florida despite the odds stacked against him. In fact, in December 2014, Markecio will graduate with a 3.5 GPA with a degree in Recreation, Parks, and Tourism in the College of Health and Human Performance,

Markecio credits much of his success to the loving and caring mentors he’s had in his life. The Schooley family and several high school teachers such as Mrs. Peggy Lewerenz and Mrs. Debra Lipphardt went above and beyond to support him and ensure he would go to college. Their continuous support gave Markecio a greater perspective on the true impact teachers and loving people can make in the lives of at-risk students. Because of the people in his life, he wasn’t shy about asking for help when he came to UF.

Introducing himself to professors came naturally. At Preview, Markecio met his most influential college mentor, Kristopher Klann, assistant director of New Student and Family Programs in the Dean of Students Office. He and Kris established a mentoring relationship early on. Kris would regularly reach out to Markecio to ensure that he was doing well in school as well as in life. Markecio credits Kris with much of his college and personal success. Markecio suggests that new students “find adult mentors when you’re on campus. People are here to help you be successful so don’t be shy.”

Markecio's college experience is a testimony to how a village came together to raise a child capable of college success. Markecio says, "Graduating from UF is my way of thanking everyone who helped position me to achieve the most out of life. I am forever indebted to those who saw the good in me, and I am proud to be a Machen Florida Opportunity Scholar."

As a scholar, many financial barriers were alleviated, making his ability to be successful in college much less stressful. For once in his life, something was easy! Our financial contributors to MFOS are such a blessing, and Markecio recognizes that many people have invested in his success without even knowing him. He says to his fellow scholars, “As we graduate and establish ourselves as successful business owners, doctors, accountants, teachers, etc, it is important for us to remember to give back to the MFOS program. I hope you’ll join me in investing in the next generation of first generation students and others like us.”