Sometimes we need to go our own way in order to find the right way. That is what happened to Jasmine Givens, a Miami Gardens native who found out that giving back to her community was her way to find fulfillment.
When Jasmine Givens was looking at universities, and planning her future, one thing was clear to her: she wanted to establish her own path. She didn't want to go into the education field, like her mom and dad had done. She knew she wanted to be a Gator and attend the University of Florida, but was unsure if it would work out.
"I'm actually a second-generation Gator," says the Miami Gardens native. "My mom, her brother and my cousin all went to the University of Florida, and college was always in the conversation. We always talked about application season and making sure you get them in on time." The University of Florida was not only her first choice, but to her, it was her only choice. "I visited several other Universities, but I had already made up my mind, and UF was it."
College was always a conversation in the Givens' household, but the second-most important conversation was about how to pay for it. Getting a higher education is hard enough as it is, but the added constraints of financing it makes it that much harder.
"Bright Futures just really gave me the opportunity to not have to worry about what that would look like."
Jasmine applied for a Bright Futures Scholarship, one of the efforts that the Florida Lottery offers to all residents of the state to achieve educational goals.
"I think, most importantly, because UF is such a rigorous school, not having to have that financial burden was super important to helping me be able to just concentrate on my studies."
Old path, new meaning
Eventually, Jasmine got her degree in Recreation Parks and Tourism with a specialization in Hospitality and Service and Management, a far cry from the educational road that she wanted to avoid. But then something happened that she didn't plan on.
"It's funny because, like I said, my mom is in Higher Education and my dad works for Miami-Dade County Public Schools, so while I was in school, my whole mission was: 'I'm going to track my own course.'"
She started working for a car rental company, but she found it unfulfilling. "I started searching for something that made me feel good when I left work, so I put out my resume and the director of the Student Life Program at The SEED School of Miami called me."
She started working there in 2017 in an entry-level position, a Student Life Counselor, which is direct care with kids. "I've just been working my way up, I got a promotion this year and I'm just super excited about where our program is going. We're about to graduate our first class of seniors. I said I didn't want to do education but I really believe in this and I really feel like this is where I should be."
The path that she most wanted to avoid became her source of joy and growth, because when you have clear objectives and the tools to achieve them, things will become clear.
"I feel like I learn more from them than they learn from me, and I think the first thing is humility. The students at our school are from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, they have so many different things going on and they just approach every day with an attitude of 'I'm just grateful to be here, I'm just grateful for this opportunity.' I also admire their resilience.
Two years ago, the school was ravaged by Hurricane Irma. "It tore our building to shreds, but the kids were really our ray of light to just keep going and make it work. They always said during that time, 'it's going to be OK guys, we can come back from anything.'"
Now that Jasmine has found a fulfilling job where she can help others like her, she can reminisce about her own life and how it can serve as a teaching tool.
"When I look back at what my college experience would have been like without the Bright Futures Scholarship, I often think of the struggles that we don't choose for ourselves, and that we have to figure out how to get out of them. Being someone who came from a school and a community where we sometimes get the short end of the stick, it's nice to be someone that people can look at and say 'Hey, you came from where I come from, you went through what I went through, you sat in the same high school that I sat in, and you made it.'"
The financial means that the Bright Futures Scholarship granted Jasmine helped her graduate from college, but her work and dedication are now making the lives of many others better.
"When you give back to your community, it's almost like you're reinvesting, and now 320 kids are benefiting from this Bright Futures Scholarship. Positive thoughts and positive actions lead to positive outcomes. You can achieve anything as long as you put the work in. The universe has a way of just working things out."
For more information, visit http://www.flalottery.com/brightfutures
The Florida Lottery is responsible for contributing more than $38 billion to education and sending more than 880,000 students to college through the Bright Futures Scholarship Program. The Florida Lottery reinvests 99 percent of its revenue back into Florida's economy through prize payouts, commissions to more than 13,000 Lottery retailers, and transfers to education. Since 1988, Florida Lottery games have paid more than $72.5 billion in prizes and made nearly 3,000 people millionaires.
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