Monday, October 10, 2011
In spring 2011, Upsilon Pi Epsilon (UPE), an international honor society for the computing and information disciplines, was chartered on the campus of SC State University. During this time, six members were initiated. Through the birth of this honor society, an outstanding opportunity was also derived for senior, computer science major, Tempestt Neal. She was awarded a $1,000 scholarship by the executive council of UPE to further her education upon graduating from SC State University. Neal is one of nine recipients to receive this award among national colleges and universities and is the only student from a Historically Black College and University (HBCU).
“It felt great to receive this scholarship,” expressed Neal. “Any time you receive free money, you really can’t feel bad about it,” she laughed. “It was also a sense of relief because graduate school is so expensive and I was automatically grateful for this assistance.”
Each summer, the executive council of UPE evaluates a large number of scholarship applications from students at both undergraduate and graduate levels. All scholarship applicants are required to complete a comprehensive application including a statement on their long-term plans for the computing and information profession, a summary of their contributions to their respective UPE chapters and student activities. Additionally, students are selected based on their academic achievements, in addition to a recommendation from their UPE faculty advisor. Then, final selections and announcements are made in the fall.
“I have not had the privilege of advising or teaching a student more deserving of this scholarship since returning to the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science in 2008,” said Dr. James Myers, assistant professor of computer science and Neal’s advisor. “Tempestt is highly motivated. She has outstanding academic skills, great character and integrity. After graduate school, I expect her to have an unparalleled impact in the computing field, which is severely underrepresented by women and African-Americans.”
Neal, who is preparing to graduate in May 2012, says she has always been appreciative of the financial assistance she’s received while at SC State. Upon her arrival, she was awarded the Order of the Eastern Star Scholarship and the Presidential Scholarship. The awards didn’t come without determination and diligence on Neal’s part, however.
“It was a rigorous process for the Order of the Eastern Star Scholarship. We had to take test after test and it was almost like taking the SAT multiple times,” explained Neal. “You take it first in your hometown where you compete against other students, and if you are ranked in the top category, you then go to Columbia, S.C. and test again. There, you are competing against everyone from other areas that also scored high on their initial test. Afterwards, you are notified if you received the award.”
With her scholarships intact, The Lancaster, S.C. native studied profusely and joined the Marching 101 Band. Shortly afterwards, she decided to get an early start on her career, so to speak. She visited SC State’s Career Center and received a work from home, in this case, work from school opportunity with Fairfield Technologies, Inc. What initially began as a two-month paid internship turned out to be a long-standing opportunity for Neal. “I design marketing one-pagers and also do some web development for the company,” shares Neal. “I was only supposed to be working for two months, but they liked my work and decided to continue to let me work for them.”
In addition to her classroom and professional work, as well as serving as a math tutor, Neal has another venture that she speaks excitingly about. While maintaining her 3.9 grade point average (GPA), she dedicated her time to helping others through three major community service projects in which she singlehandedly and successfully organized and implemented. “My first community service project was starting a clothing drive for the victims of the Haiti earthquake. I received clothes from anybody that was willing to offer them. Mrs. White (in the Honors College) and I provided them to the Red Cross and they were sent from there.” She added, “The second one I did was a winter clothing drive. I collected coats, scarves, socks and other items and donated them to the boys’ home in my hometown. The response I received was phenomenal. I felt like I knew the boys because they were so thankful.”
As Neal saw the impact she made on the boys’ lives, she decided to continue to make a difference. Her final community service project consisted of collecting money from various organizations and individuals, in addition to adding her own money to purchase a laptop, carrying case, flash drive and printer for the boys’ home. “I have a strong opinion about community service,” notes Neal. “For most students, if they are required to have community service hours and somebody says to them that if you participate in this fundraiser selling donuts and we benefit off of the profit you will get community service hours. To me, that’s not really community service. I received permission from the Honors College to participate in these community service projects, and even if the answer would have been no and they were not approved, I still would have done them.”
It’s clear that Neal already displays the Bulldog tenacity that’s been instilled in her while at SC State. After graduation, she plans to continue studying computer science and pursue a career in software engineering or graphics.
“I committed to hard work and stayed focused, not getting caught up in the crowd,” she mentioned when asked why she thought she’s been successful in college. “I’m not anti-social, but I kind of keep to myself and that helped me to remain focused on what I need to do, and I knew I had to keep my scholarship,” laughed Neal. As for her newly awarded scholarship, she says, “it’s a sense of accomplishment and hopefully it will let other students at HBCU’s realize that they can achieve the same if they apply themselves.”