James T “Jim” Matthews Scholarship Recipient
I’m going to Valdosta State University.
When I tell my story, I just want people to know just because your past is ‘this’, your present doesn’t have to be ‘that’. Your future doesn’t have to be ‘that’. You have the ability to change it. If you have willpower and real determination, then you can do anything.
I have been living with my grandmother since I was a baby, my three younger siblings and me. My mom felt like she couldn’t take care of us. So, my grandmother stepped in, and she’s been a mom to me all these years. It’s kind of hard because I don’t see where she’s coming from sometimes because she’s already raised her children.
I’m grateful because she gave up her life. And, I’m very appreciative that she gave up her life to raise me. I think that I have the determination and willpower simply because I watch her everyday. I watch her determination.
“If I met Mr. Matthews, I would be really thankful that he allowed me to be able to actually fill out a scholarship application. There were a lot of ancestors and people before me who couldn’t go to school… So I just feel very grateful that I am in this position because of him.”
That pushes me even further. Not a lot of people in my family that can say, ‘Hey, I graduated from high school. I graduated college. I got this degree.’
There was this lady who said, ‘The people in your life should help your light shine brighter.’ And, I just feel like my grandmother is my light that makes me shine brighter every single day.
I just want to be somebody’s encouragement.
When I’m really studying, and I get major, major anxiety and I think, ‘I just can’t do this.’ It’s like God speaks to me every time, ‘If I brought you through this, imagine what I can do for you in the future.’
It’s like, you can start from nothing and be something better than what you thought you could be.
I’m amazed at my future and what I think and what I know it’s going to be. I feel like I can help so many people just by sharing my story. I feel like my future is going to be bright in helping so many people.
I don’t think that anyone is going to be able to stop me.
I feel like my legacy leaving this school would just be: Do what everyone isn’t doing. Fill out scholarships. Go on college tours. Get in this club. Get in that club. It’s okay to be different because being different gets you really far in life.
God and my three brothers are what make me get out of bed in the morning. They didn’t see a female figure, you know, make it as far as I am making it. Even though they get on my nerves all the time, they’re just motivation to me, because I feel like if they see me do it, then they will just blow my mind.
If there was any advice I could give, I would say: Do the unexpected. Be the unexpected. Be unstoppable. You have to have unforgettable, unstoppable determination. And it’s not easy.”
Story written by Susannah Maddux. Photo by Maryann Bates.