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  1. Hillsborough

Tampa's Athena Society awards career assistance grants

Pursing higher education always poses challenges. But it can be even more daunting without support and encouragement.

On Thursday, May 2, eight Hillsborough County women received that support from Tampa's Athena Society, which awarded each of them a $2,250 career assistance grant.

The program is named in honor of the late Phyllis P. Marshall, a long-standing member and past society president who advocated for students during her career at the University of South Florida.

For many of the women, juggling studies, multiple jobs or being a single mother, the scholarship provides some financial relief while they pursue their goals

Ocean Ablessing Levine, a previous grant recipient, was keynote speaker and inspired the room with her story of overcoming domestic violence and homelessness to achieve academic success. She was shot three times, cut on her face and called stupid, but eventually charted her path to success.

"Eventually became my favorite word," Levine said. "Eventually I will be. Eventually I will start school and put myself in a better position to leave this violence, mistreatment and abuse. Years went by and eventually my curiosity got the best of me."

She began her journey at Hillsborough Community College's SouthShore campus. Currently she is a nursing student at St. Petersburg College. Upon completing her degree, she plans to attend Yale University to study philosophy and then continue on to law school.

Levine received a standing ovation as she closed by challenging the recipients to never give up and never stop giving back: "The tassel was worth the hassle."

Contact Monique Welch at or Follow Mo_UNIQUE_ .