Monday, December 06, 2010
For more than four consecutive years, SC State University has attained the number one ranking in social mobility with Washington Monthly magazine, an independent monthly magazine covering politics, government, culture and media in America. This number one ranking clearly defines the University’s mission to provide students with a quality education, granting access to those who would otherwise not have been able to afford to attend college.
For one soon to be SC State graduate, the number one social mobility ranking has proven accurate, as he says he would not be anticipating receiving his degree in May 2011 had it not been for the financial aid awards granted to him from the University.
“I pride myself on the fact that there was enough need-based financial aid assistance, as well as academic assistance available for me to come to SC State without having to worry about paying loans afterwards,” shares senior accounting major, Russell Simon.
A native of Santee, S.C., Simon grew up in a single-parent home and realized early on the struggles his mother endured to raise him and his older sister. Despite the odds, Simon was determined to create a better life for him and his family, and he says there was one key to creating this reality.
“I understood the value of an education at an earlier age,” he says. “My mother was not afforded the opportunity to attend college because of the financial struggles during her time. She always reminded me that it was possible for me to go to college. She showed me tough love and told me I had to do better; she would often say, ‘you have to achieve all that you can achieve.’”
He took those words to heart. At the age of 14, Simon began working part-time at a local fast food restaurant, making $5.15 an hour. “Since then, I always worked,” he says. Working wasn’t his only pursuit. He also focused on giving back to his community, participating in several activities and cause related events. This would prove beneficial to Simon as he would find himself getting back much of the stewardship that he had given. “While in high school, I made sure I visited my guidance counselor’s office every day during lunch. I used that time to apply for every scholarship that came her way.”
This aggressiveness paid off tremendously, actually in full. When Simon enrolled at SC State in August 2008, he was awarded 10 independent scholarships, in addition to a Pell Grant, which serves as a post-secondary educational Federal grant sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education that does not have to be repaid. Each subsequent year, Simon was awarded several scholarships and grants to include the Dick Horne Foundation Scholarship, James E. Clyburn Scholarship, Rotary Club Scholarship, Chamber of Commerce and Tri-County Chamber of Commerce Scholarships, the LIFE Scholarship, the USDA 1890 Scholarship and the Academic Competiveness Grant, which is awarded to students with a 3.0 Grade Point Average (GPA) who are enrolled in a rigorous post-secondary degree program. Additionally, he was awarded the Pell Grant through his senior year. Washington Monthly’s social mobility ranking also reviews the percentage of Pell Grant recipients, SAT scores and anticipated graduation rates for students enrolled at the University.
Receiving a free college education was extremely valuable to Simon. He says at the time he was choosing which college to attend, his mother said something that would form his ultimate decision. “My mom said, ‘Russell, I’m not going to tell you where to go, just know that I cannot afford to send you to college, so I suggest you take the financial decision into account.’ I could have gone to other institutions but not without acquiring some loans; therefore, SC State turned out to be the best decision,” he says.
While at SC State, Simon’s successful habits from high school continued in his college experience. He studied vigorously, ensuring his grades were kept up, and he also began participating in several professional organizations to include the Kappa Upsilon chapter of Alpha Kappa Psi Professional Business Fraternity, where he served as 2009-2010 chapter president. In April 2010, he was inducted into the Lambda Theta Chapter of Beta Alpha Psi Honor Fraternity, which serves as the national honorary organization for financial information students and professionals at the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) International accredited schools. Currently, he serves as the 2010-2011 Student Government Association (SGA) business manager, where he is responsible for event and travel logistics, as well as overseeing the student budget.
Of his professional and community involvement, Simon says, “I wouldn’t change it at all. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience because that’s what got me here. It wasn’t just the grades that got me those scholarships, it was because of the community service and the leadership roles I was involved in during high school.”
When Simon receives his degree in May 2011, he says he will be most grateful of the time and opportunity he was afforded at SC State. “I couldn’t have pictured myself going anyplace else.”
In June 2011, Simon will become a full-time employee with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) at one of their four locations throughout the United States. Each summer, during his three years at SC State, Simon interned with the USDA, learning about various accounting practices. In Spring 2012, he plans to enroll in graduate school to pursue his MBA degree, in addition to obtaining his certification to become a public accountant.
Serving as a model student who defeated obstacles and overcame challenges, Simon is the epitome of educational success. He created opportunities and believed he would achieve, while ensuring his social status would not limit him. He encourages others to do the same.
“SC State University is a phenomenal institution that has really made me who I am, and I would definitely tell others to use the opportunities here to help enhance and develop the person that they are. Don’t let your background deter you,” stressed Simon. “Stay positive, look for the best and stay focused on the future.”