STEPS Scholarship

In 2005, Bernie Little, Jr., a Trustee of Central Florida Community College, proposed an “elementary scholarship” program to Dr. Dassance, the college president.  Dr. Dassance liked the idea, as did the CFCC Foundation Board, which adopted the program and named it STEPS.

The idea for STEPS came from Polk Community College in the Lakeland/Winter Haven area where Mr. Little was a Trustee before moving to Ocala in 1997.  PCC had an elementary school scholarship program called Wally’s Kids that was hugely successful.  The program concept was to award a full scholarship to the community college to a graduating 5th grader at each elementary school in the college’s service area.  The scholarship would be awarded by a vote of the teachers at each elementary school and was intended to focus a spotlight on a very deserving student.

Mr. Little funded the original 3 scholarships, one for each county of the college’s service area.  After the first 3 scholarships were awarded and the program received some recognition, Mr. Little then worked with the Foundation Board and staff to reach out to community leaders in all 3 counties asking them to adopt additional schools.   In his initial calls on community leaders, Mr. Little offered to “anonymously” match any gift they made until both a female and a male student could be recognized at each elementary school each year.  As the STEPS program gained momentum, Mr. Little continued to “anonymously” fund additional scholarships each year until a majority of the elementary schools in the college’s service area had scholarships.

In all of his involvement with STEPS, Mr. Little tried to keep the focus on the program and especially on the students.   In proposing the original STEPS program and providing the initial and subsequent funding, it was not his intent to receive personal recognition.

At its core, the STEPS program seeks to shine a spotlight on a special student and offer him or her a vision of a better future while providing a motivation to stay focused on schoolwork and other attributes of citizenship.

Since the inception of the program in 2005, over 350 STEPS scholarships have been awarded to the 47 elementary schools in the college’s service area.  In 2013, approximately 85 scholarships will be awarded.

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