In late February, members of Student Government and two buses full of USF students traveled to Tallahassee to deliver to the governor 30,000 signatures in a petition for the preservation of the Florida Bright Futures scholarship program. SG thought that would be enough, but the battle is not over. Some students and members of SG gathered outside Cooper Hall Wednesday afternoon to continue rallying for the scholarship threatened by budget cuts.
“Our goals (of the rally) are obviously to engage awareness and participation. We’ve done a lot with the media and advertisements, but I think a lot of students still don’t know what is going on,” said student body president Mike Griffin, who is also a member of the Board of Trustees. “Two days ago, Representative David Simmons from Central Florida more or less wrote an amendment dismantling this program.”
Mike Berman, senate president and student body president candidate, said Florida got its lottery solely because 38 percent of the revenue went directly to the Education Enhancement Trust Fund, which is meant to supplement the budget, not replace it.
He also said the program has increased the college attendance rates of students, especially at-risk students, and increased attendance for Florida schools.
“It has been a big issue for minority and at-risk students,” Berman said. “These students have seen a tremendous benefit from this scholarship program. When we have a program that is making sure that our students finish high school, work hard to prepare for college and qualify for Bright Futures, then give it to them because they have earned it.”
At-risk students were not the only ones concerned with maintaining the Bright Futures scholarship program. Some said that Bright Futures is the reason they are able to attend USF, and without it, they might not be in college at all. More than 98,000 students (new freshmen and prior recipients) received a Bright Futures Scholarship for the 2001-2002 academic school year. Of that total, 71 percent used the scholarship at a state university, according to the Florida Bright Futures Web site.
“I came out to support Bright Futures because it helps me go to college, and without it, I wouldn’t be going here,” Rachel Fulmer said. “I have signed some petitions, and I am gonna take some back to my friends and get them to sign them.”
Recipients of Bright Futures were not the only supporters at the rally. Kendrell Watkins said he is not a recipient of Bright Futures, but he volunteered his time to provide music and microphones via WBUL 1620AM to help SG with the rally.
In addition to supporting the rally, Griffin encourages all students to get involved. He said there has been some progress through participation.
Besides the Tallahassee rally, the SG presidents also held a meeting March 24 with Gov. Jeb Bush on campus, which focused mainly on Bright Futures.
There are steps that others can take if they were unable to go to Tallahassee but still want to help save Bright Futures.
“Go to , look up the legislators, and e-mail, write and call them to let them know how important this program is,” Griffin said. “Get your parents, aunts, uncles, cousins and neighbors involved because this is definitely a Florida issue and not just a student issue. Engagement is most important. I can’t do it myself, we (SG) can’t do it ourselves. This is a collaborative effort.”