Shaw University Gives College Senior a Way Out of Poverty

Shaw University student Kasonia Smith reflects on the importance of an HBCU (Siobhan Riley/Spectrum News 1)

BY SIOBHAN RILEY RALEIGH

UPDATED 8:30 AM ET MAY. 10, 2023 PUBLISHED 5:30 AM ET MAY 10, 2023

RALEIGH, N.C. — College graduation ceremonies are taking place across the state this month. For some students, finding the money to pay for college isn’t always easy. Numbers from the Education Data Initiative show 1.7 million scholarships are awarded annually. However, only 7% of college students will receive a scholarship.

In this week’s segment of “The Little Things Matter,” Spectrum News spoke with a Shaw University student days before graduation about how a scholarship kept her from being homeless.

On the campus of Shaw University is where it all started for Kasonia Smith, a mass communications major who proves that dreams that seem impossible may be delayed but are not denied.

“I’m making my vision board,” Smith said.

A clear vision is meaningful for Smith, considering the obstacles she overcame just to attend college. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the money she was depending on for school went away.

“I Iost my scholarship back home in 2020. I was a track and field athlete, and I lost my scholarship due to lack of funding at the university where I was attending,” Smith explained.

Smith showed us photos from 2020, with one being her first time coming to the United States as an international student from Jamaica.

Smith applied to five universities but didn’t get accepted to some because the deadline passed. Others only offered partial scholarships or none at all.

Shaw University gave the 23-year-old a full ride. She’s about to graduate summa cum laude this Saturday.

“Shaw University gave me a chance. I received one yes, and it was a yes to success,” Smith said.

Smith says getting that yes to a college scholarship meant she had a chance to succeed and wouldn’t end up homeless.

Her mother, who is a single parent, still lives in Jamaica and has always tried to support her daughter, but that doesn’t mean money wasn’t tight.

Smith says she worked during college just so she could send money back home to her family.

“I live by affirmations,” Smith explained.

Smith says those affirmations are the reason the scholarship and her vision board are so important, giving her a way out of poverty and landing her hope for a better future.

“I’m now seeing where I have victory. I want to implore other girls that it can be done, and I want to tell people not just here in America but back home, that little Black girl, yes you can because I did too,” Smith stated.

Smith is working to become a national news correspondent one day and is hoping to stay in the United States after college.

However, she faces some challenges to this goal, as she isn’t a U.S. citizen and therefore has to apply for an O.P.T. card, or Optional Practical Training, in order to work in the United States.

There are other benefits to college scholarships. According to Forbes, the money can:

  1. Minimize student debt
  2. Fill the void left by public education funding cuts
  3. Support equitable outcomes
  4. Support student performance