Published - August, 3, 2007 Pensacola News Journal
Four Pensacola High School students have been selected as the first participants in the University of West Florida’s ARGO Scholars program.
A committee selected the students last year. They will be supported and mentored throughout their high school careers through a partnership between the university and Pensacola High.
Over the next two years, both schools also plan to build a $1 million endowment fund to provide scholars with financial support as well as a study-abroad experience. Of that goal, $315,000 has been raised so far from private donations, including $100,000 from the Bank of America, UWF President John Cavanaugh said.
During the program launch on Thursday, Cavanaugh noted that the UWF-PHS partnership was spurred in part by the need to provide a better-educated local workforce. “Oftentimes we say that we want good-paying jobs to come to the area,” Cavanaugh said. “But companies also want to be able to tap into a skilled work force. If we can help provide that, then I think we as an educational body have done a good job.”
Founded in 1903, PHS is located in an inner-city neighborhood and has a student population of 1,620, about 57 percent of whom are minority. The student body also includes over 400 participants in the International Baccalaureate program and was ranked eighth in the nation by Newsweek magazine for high schools offering challenging courses.
“Our scholars program offers a great journey for these young people,” said Dean Van Galen, UWF vice president of development. “They represent what is best about public education.”
Miguel Aldahondo took that journey from his native Puerto Rico to Pensacola four years ago, not knowing a word of English.
“I came here with many goals in mind, including learning the language, keeping good grades and getting a college degree in music,” said Miguel, a member of the Pensacola Children’s Chorus. “I think with the UWF scholarship I can really reach my dream of becoming a singer and great musician.”
Dasom Bae left her native South Korea with her family in 2003 and came to the United States. She said the UWF scholarship “gives me confidence to ensure that I can do anything if I try hard enough.”
Turi Clausell, born in Montgomery, Ala., loves the sciences and also music.
“The ARGO Scholars program is a great avenue to success and I plan to take advantage of it,” said Turi, who plays the trumpet and tuba in the Pensacola High Tigers band.
Pensacola native Rhonda Barfield also is active in her school. A member of the Health Academy program, she volunteers at Baptist Hospital and has her sights set on a future medical career.
“With a college education being very expensive, I’m grateful for the UWF program,” Rhonda said. “Now I would be able to attain all the skills I need to accomplish my goals for my future.”