At its peak, the pandemic sapped the energy of countless students across the country and that certainly was the case for Dasha Pushkanova. The 2022 graduate of Riverview High School studied remotely her junior year, and, over Zoom, lessons lost their luster. She struggled to find motivation.
When she returned to school her senior year, Dasha began to regain her focus. She visited the Education Foundation’s Student Success Center at Riverview High, where she worked closely with Sarah Harding, an Education Foundation College Career Coordinator. With Sarah, she found a trusted, positive advisor who would become a mentor and friend, and who helped her research programs that would fit what she most wanted to pursue: mechanical engineering.
Dasha has long been interested in STEM and how things work. She is especially drawn to creating things. Through research with Sarah, Dasha learned of a great program at the University of Central Florida, and with a plan taking shape, she became more focused, more reengaged in school and her studies.
Finding individualized advising was essential to Dasha. Although her older sister had already begun to study at the University of Florida, her parents had emigrated from Russia to the United States and had little experience with the American college system. One of three daughters, all with plans to attend college, Dasha also knew that money was tight, and she needed to find ways to pay for her education.
Through Sarah, she learned about the Jumpstart Your Future! scholarships. Last year, thanks to a generous donor, the Education Foundation established the Shanney / Richardson Scholarship Fund, and through a partnership with the Florida Prepaid College Foundation, Jumpstart Your Future! scholarships were born. These scholarships for students with a financial need cover one year / 30 credit hours (valued at up to $3,400) at a Florida technical college, state college, or state university.
Dasha applied and was one of 31 students who made up the inaugural class of Jumpstart Your Future! recipients. The effects of the scholarship have been threefold. She received a valuable boost in confidence that comes with community recognition of one’s hard work. That’s been especially important as Dasha has entered a field that has traditionally been filled by men. Indeed, she is one of far fewer women in the program.
Dasha gained important life skills as well. As part of the scholarship, all recipients attended Education Foundation workshops to prepare them for college and career. She enjoyed meeting students from across Sarasota County and working with workshop leader Dr. Bianca Harris. In addition to learning practical life skills and financial literacy, she became more motivated as she articulated her college plans and her goals.
The scholarship has also provided practical support that has been vital for Dasha. Today, she is thriving at the University of Central Florida in part because she can cover tuition and expenses knowing that she is not adding a burden to her parents. The combination of a Jumpstart Your Future! scholarship and Bright Futures ensures financial well-being so she can focus on solving problems and discovering how complex systems work.
Scholarships make a tremendous difference and keep alive the dream of a college degree for so many students like Dasha. If you can support a scholarship fund through a charitable donation, please do. And if you’re a student, now is the time to search for and apply to scholarships. We can help. These resources are a great place to start: