Three Philadelphia Students Win Surprise Scholarships

October 10, 2011

For three Philadelphia high school students, an evening field trip to the museum turned into a surprise that may change their lives.

Seniors Tiffany Collins, Jamal Robinson, and Ramean Clowney thought they were attending a speaking event at the Philadelphia Museum of Art last week, only to discover they had received Sun Life Rising Star scholarships. At the awards ceremony in the museum auditorium, each received $5,000 toward his or her college education.

"I was very shocked," said Collins, 17, of North Philadelphia, who applied for the scholarship through recommendations from her teachers at Arise Academy Charter High School.

Collins' family - including her mother, aunt, grandmother, two younger brothers, and three cousins - knew about the surprise and were at the ceremony to celebrate "this perfect moment" with her.

"I was very emotional, too. [It was] something that I really wanted," said Collins, who cried when she received her check.

Robinson, 18, of West Philadelphia, who attends Abraham Lincoln High School, shared similar sentiments and felt relieved that the scholarship would ease the financial burden on his mother.

Also from West Philadelphia and currently attending One Bright Ray Community High School, Clowney, 18, said he was "caught off guard" but "very joyful" when he heard he'd won.The three were not the only winners. Their sponsoring organizations each received a $50,000 grant to help with education initiatives such as youth counseling and college preparedness.

Collins was sponsored by the Urban Affairs Coalition, a nonprofit that focuses on quality-of-life issues in cities. Robinson was sponsored by Philadelphia Futures, which helps students from low-income families get into college. Clowney's sponsor was Philadelphia Youth Network Inc., which provides similar services.

The scholarships were donated by the international financial services company Sun Life Financial, which awards scholarships to students through its Sun Life Rising Star Awards programs and also aids nonprofit groups.

Collins, who calls herself "very protective," says she wants to become a nurse.

Her summer job serving breakfast and lunch to students taught her hospitality, how to prepare and serve food, and proper hygiene, skills that should help in her future career.

"I'm very much a neat freak. I don't mind cleaning up all day," said Collins, who says she plans to apply to Pennsylvania State, Howard, and Georgetown Universities.

Quan Nguyen
Philadelphia Inquirer