The 2016 #iBeatTheOdds Scholarship finalists were Shelly, Brenda and Erikah. Eight resilient Essex High School (EHS) students in all submitted essays to the #iBeatTheOdds Scholarship Committee. The scholarships are available to any Essex High School senior regardless of GPA and does not require SAT or ACT test scores. The award may be used for a two or four-year college or technical school. Sales from Nelson Beats the Odds, a graphic novel published by EHS alumnus Ronnie Nelson Sidney, II, was used to fund the scholarships. Sidney started the scholarship in memory of former classmates Teddy Rich and Arthur Bundy. “Grit and determination mean more to me than grades. I graduated high school with a 1.8 GPA and limited options for college. Although my future was uncertain, I knew one thing, I would beat the odds,” says Sidney.
Participants are required to submit an essay entitled “Beating the Odds”. The essays are about a personal experience overcoming an obstacle or dealing with a hardship. The t0p two finalist read their essays to an audience of eighth grade students from Essex Intermediate School. The students selected seventeen-year-old Shelly as the winner.
Shelly is an Essex High School senior who hopes to enroll in Virginia Union University this fall. The historically black university is located in Richmond, Virginia. Shelly is the 2016 #iBeatTheOdds scholarship winner. She spoke boldly about overcoming the grief she experienced after her father’s death. “I have learned that my life can go back to normal after the death of my dad, that there is no odd on Earth that I cannot beat,” says Shelly, ” I am determined to become the woman that I know my dad would want me to become and one that he will be proud of.”
An excerpt from Shelly’s essay:
“Life has thrown me many curve balls at a young age and I have managed to get by and make the most out of them all. One obstacle that I faced I feel that no child should ever have to go through. I lost my father at the age of 12 and that is definitely one thing that I thought I would never get over. He was not only my father, but also my friend. There were days when I did not understand what was going on or why it even happened. I even wondered why God had to take my father from me after spending only a short period of time with him. I know I was wrong for questioning it, but I was so confused and so hurt by this tragedy.”
Brenda, 18, wishes to enroll in Mary Baldwin University this August. Brenda and her sister left their mother in war-torn Liberia to seek a better life in the the United States. Brenda’s mother wanted her daughters to have a quality education, shelter and other necessities so she sent them to the U.S. to live with their father. In the U.S. Brenda encountered bullies who tormented her on a daily basis. “People did not care what I was or had been going though, their only concern was that I did not keep with the latest fashion trend, or enunciate words like them,” says Brenda, “With all the challenges at home, as well as school, my determination to rise above the odds became stronger.”