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College bound - after a few years in high school

The eighth grader won a partial college scholarship by answering two questions.
Joseph Lafay Washington-Clements won a $10,000 college scholarship in an essay contest through the Hillsborough Education Foundation. [MCLANE MIDDLE SCHOOL]
Published May 21
Updated May 21

Joseph LaFay Washington-Clements is leaving McLane Middle School this month with the beginnings of a plan for college.

The 14-year-old won an essay contest, sponsored by the Hillsborough Education Foundation, by answering two questions that moved the judges.

The first: Explain how your character traits have helped you overcome a personal adversity.

Joseph’s response:

My parents divorced when I was two years old and my mother was granted full custody of me and my older brother and sister. This was difficult for us because our father played a big role in our upbringing. My mother soon re-married a violent man. That relationship eventually ended up with my mom in prison. So, for the last 10 years my father has been raising the three of us alone. I love living with my dad, but I still miss my mom. It’s hard sometimes keeping a relationship with her. Even though we write it’s even harder knowing that it will be years before I can ever visit her. My dad teaches us to face our problems and lean on those that care to help us get through it. I believe that his lesson has become apart of my character. It is how I get through missing my mom.

The second question: Why do you think it’s important to go to college and how will a scholarship help you attend college?

Her answer:

I think that it’s important to go to college because it gives you an opportunity to meet new people, learn new things, and try to find yourself. College allows people to get a higher education about what they want to focus on. It gives them the opportunity to see how the real world is even if it’s a little cruel. This is because it has people remember what they need to do and make decisions about what they want to do.

College costs a lot of money. Luckily, there’s scholarships. Scholarships could help me attend college by helping me pay for a portion of my college tuition or even all of it. I have always worried about attending college because of the cost so this solves it. This helps me be able to save my money for other things like my dorm, food, and my school books. There are scholarships cover all of that too but just in case it would be nice to be able to save my money for those things as well.


Assistant Principal Troy Vasaturo shared these essays as a way of recognizing Joseph’s work and sharing a little bit of what we learn when students write about their lives.

Joseph is continuing on to Middleton High School. After that, she plans to pursue an engineering degree at the University of South Florida.

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