FLORIDA — Getting to college isn't always easy, but several Bay area community partners are working to make it a little easier, especially for students who may face specific obstacles.

  • $3 million raised to benefit Fuse Scholarship Program
  • Program, launched in 2017, provides pathway from SPC, HCC to USF
  • Scholarships help overcome financial hurdles
  • More Education stories 

A total of $3 million was raised to benefit the Fuse program, which helps first generation, minority and underrepresented students get to college.

The Fuse program is a strategic pillar for LEAP, Tampa Bay’s College Access Network, which is focused on increasing college access and attainment, with the goal of ensuring that Tampa Bay has a globally competitive workforce.

“We know there’s so much talent and intellect in our community, but many students don’t have the same access and opportunity to achieve a university degree that maybe others might,” said Helios Education Foundation CEO Paul Luna. 

The Community Foundation of Tampa Bay and the Helios Education Foundation worked with several community partners to raise the money. 

Fuse gives students at community colleges like HCC and St. Petersburg College a guaranteed pathway to USF. 

“The fact that they’re thinking about people like me and people that were around me when I was growing up is very, very nice,” said first-generation USFSM student Lucero Guzman. “Sometimes it’s hard to find scholarships or organizations in general that are looking for people like us and are looking to help us.”

Students receive scholarship allocations each semester. 

The scholarships help overcome financial hurdles, which accelerates the timeframe for earning a degree, reduces costs for students and gets them in the workforce more quickly.   

“You’re looking for students that are going to be pursuing the types of degrees that are most in need for the future economy of the community,” Luna said. 

“First generation students are the ones that are going to be in the workforce in the future so I think it’s very important to have those people that may be underrepresented right now and lift them up and empower them,” Guzman said. 

The Fuse scholarship has been awarded to 93 students since it launched in 2017.