By Tamas Mondovics
Ten-year-old, Robert ‘R.J.’ Simmons may not be packing his bags for college for at least another seven years, but the fifth-grade FishHawk Creek Elementary student’s worries over tuition fees are already over.
Thanks to his love of writing, Simmons was recently rewarded with a full ride, four-year Florida College Plan scholarship provided by the Florida Prepaid College Foundation, after submitting an essay to Governor Rick Scott’s Black History Month essay contest.
“I was shocked and very happy when I found out that I won,” Simmons said.
The young writer was one of three Bay area students to win the assignment, which consisted of writing a 500-word essay about an African-American innovator or inventor who had a positive impact on Florida’s economy.
After some research Simmons, decided to write about golf tee inventor Dr. George Grant.
“I did some research and realized that there was a lot of golf in Florida,” he said. “He invented the golf tee, so I thought it would be a good person to write about.”
Simmons said that it took him about a week to complete the project, but he loves to write so he enjoyed every minute of it.
The reward comes in handy as the young student plans to become a doctor himself and has every intention to attend college, which now has become more achievable.
Having the financial burden that comes with further education out of the way, Simmons parents are pretty happy as well.
“We had hoped he would win, but when we got the call it was a complete surprise,” said R.J.’s mother, Kelly Simmons an ESE (Exceptional Student Education) teacher at Newsome High School. “We as a family highly value education and this is a huge weight off our shoulders.”
The family proudly travelled to Tallahassee where after meeting Scott, R.J. received his award during a reception held at the Governor’s mansion.
The event celebrated the contributions African-American community leaders, educators and students, such as R.J., make to Florida’s communities, culture and history.
“We are very excited to recognize the Florida K-12 students who participated in the 2015 Black History Month art and essay contests,” said Governor Scott’s wife, Ann Scott. “I have traveled across our beautiful state, and have had many opportunities to visit elementary, middle, and high schools. Education is very close to my heart, and the creativity of Florida’s students and teachers is a constant inspiration. Thank you to all who have participated in this month’s celebration of African American heritage, and helped to preserve its significance.”
The two other winners of the essay contest included Bradenton’s Oasis Middle School student Valeria Morfin and Tampa Bay Technical High School student Chyna Lindsay.
The Black History Month reception and awards are supported by the Florida Lottery, Florida Prepaid College Foundation, Volunteer Florida Foundation, Comcast, AT&T, Florida Power and Light, Prudential, Publix, and Brighthouse Networks.
To learn more about the Governor Rick Scott’s Black History Month Art and Essay Contests, visit www.floridablackhistory.com/essay.cfm.