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Just Getting Started

For many students coming out of high school, the road to college can be a tough one, especially if the financial conditions at home are not optimal. But planning for your future ahead of time is a good way to bridge that gap.

For Rhea Thomas, her journey to obtain a Bright Futures Scholarship started long before she even knew how her college life would be. While attending Cypress Bay High School in Weston, Florida, she started taking the Advanced International Cambridge Examinations curriculum courses, so she could get ahead of the curve. And the Bright Futures Scholarship program, funded by the Florida Lottery, was there to help her.

"I received the AICE diploma by junior year, so that automatically provided a hundred percent for Bright Futures, so it was honestly just a relief. I have two older brothers and both of them got it as well, so it was a big relief on my parents' part too. It helps with the payment of college, so it was great."

Both of her brothers are now done with college, so Rhea has been able to start her college education with full focus, knowing her parents do not have to take out loans or worry about how to help her financially.

"If I didn't get the scholarship, I would have to take out a lot of loans and that would, of course, affect my future. I can put that money towards something else in the future."

That future for Rhea is not only bright, but also wide open. Her anticipated graduation date for an Advertising and Public Relations Pending Major at the University of Central Florida is June, 2024, so she has many options. The Bright Futures Scholarship allows her to take time and decide what she wants to do and where she would be most helpful towards her community.

"I just graduated high school in June, and things have been a little off because of the current situation; so, most of the time I've just been at home. Right now, I'm working on differentiating a hobby from something I want as a career and looking into different majors and clubs I can join to find what I really want to do."


It's all about preparation and commitment

Rhea has her work cut out for her at UCF, but she got a head start in high school. The fact that her two older brothers were also Bright Futures recipients really helped to push her towards her college goals.  So, as much hard work as it was, the AICE program she took to help her get the scholarship facilitated the transition to college life.

"Over my high school experience, I've been taking accelerated classes. I've been doing the AICE program, and all of those classes are at a college level; so, personally, I don't think I'll have a difficult time being able to manage all these curriculum classes and my outside life because I've been having to work with that all of high school."

But her preparation did not end with her classes. She was also involved with the school's Television Production program, something that might also turn into a professional pursuit.

"I was the president of the TV program, and I had different leadership roles in that. I loved doing that. I loved editing and producing the show and just being able to go out and film. But I'm just trying to open up my options a bit more. I might end up going back to that, but I just want to see what else is out there for me."

There is also the desire to help others, something that is present in every Bright Futures Scholarship recipient. Aside from classes and extracurricular activities, Rhea was also very engaged with community service.

"I was a part of the [United Nations Children's Fund] (UNICEF) Club at Cypress for four years, and then I was a part of Habitat for Humanity. I just love being able to interact with other people. I love doing community service. Since I was pretty much able to, I've been super active, even in my church."

Nothing is impossible when your heart and mind are committed to your goals. And the Bright Futures Scholarship program is there to help bring those goals much closer.

"It was definitely a stressful period, but you've just got to try hard on your classes, put in the effort and hopefully things will come out right. It wasn't a great time, but I got through it with my squad of teachers and got this benefit of the hundred percent scholarship, so, honestly, you just got to push for it and try to do your best."

For Rhea, as with many other Floridians working hard for this opportunity, the best is yet to come.

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The Florida Lottery is responsible for contributing more than $39 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.

 Above content provided by the Florida Lottery.

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