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school, which Tevia takes them to during her break-time at around

through these screenings that Tevia found out about Antonio’s

8 am. After work, she picks up the kids from Children First and

learning disability. Children First subsequently helped connect her

takes them to the library and then to the Robert Taylor Commu-

with the school district so Antonio can receive daily therapy.

nity Center so they can play. Following dinner, she reads to the

While the family still faces many challenges, Tevia says she

kids and then studies for her degree in nursing from SCF, which

has noticed a big change in the kids and in her own outlook

she hopes to complete by spring 2015. She tries to be in bed each

since they found Children First. “Every day is a struggle, but I

night by 11 so that she can start all over again the next day.

can’t imagine what we would do without Children First. I’m so

Fortunately for Tevia, Children First helps ease some of the burden by providing two nutritious meals each day for A’raina and Antonio. Highly trained and certified teachers make sure the kids are on track developmentally, and on-site staff and a network of community partners provide healthcare screenings for the children, something the family could not afford previously. It was

grateful for the resources they have given me and the outlook that there is hope.” CONNECT: Federal budget cuts have dramatically impacted Children First. To find out how you can help support their mission and the low-income families they serve, call (941) 953-3877, email or visit them online at

Finding that Inner Strength

How SCF Transformed a High School Dropout into a Future MD By Jake Hartivgsen hen Vida Biggins was in 8th grade her social studies teacher told her that school wasn’t a good fit for her. She was 13 years old. Ironically, the teacher’s name was Mrs. Love. It wasn’t the first time Vida had encountered cruelty from an adult in her life. At age 7, she and her mother fled their home in order to escape her father, who was abusive and a drug addict. She was then molested by a live-in relative from the time she was 8 until she was 10 years old. She admits that she lost focus both socially and academically as a result. “I was afraid to tell my mom what I was going through so I didn’t really feel like I had anyone to talk to,” she says, “and that ended up impacting my school work. I was a really good student up until then, but I got so distracted that I stopped focusing and concentrating.” By the time she reached 9th grade, Vida dropped out of school. She found a job and spent the next ten years working

Vida is quick to credit SCF with helping her achieve success. “I love SCF. There are so many people here who have supported me. They’ve nurtured and pushed me in just the right amounts. It’s been a totally different experience than I had in my past.”

in retail and customer service. In fact, she might have spent the

While at SCF, she has also interned at the Roskamp Institute,

rest of her life working that way if it hadn’t been for her dis-

where she assists Dr. Rad Tzekov with research studying the cor-

covery of a podcast called Radiolab, produced by PBS station

relation between traumatic brain injury and optic nerve damage

WNYC and broadcast throughout the country.

in mice. The findings, which are scheduled for publication in a

What happened next is the stuff of fairy tales. Through Radiolab, Vida discovered a passion for neuroscience and started

leading scholarly journal, have medical implications for seniors and for athletes.

visiting the library to read every textbook she could find on the

Asked what she would say to Mrs. Love if she encountered her

subject. She earned her GED and in 2012 entered State College

these days, Vida ponders the thought for a moment. “It probably

of Florida (SCF) as a freshman.

depends on the day. But ultimately you learn lessons from the

Since then, she has received a William G. and Marie Selby Foundation Scholarship and was recently accepted to Columbia University, where she plans to complete her bachelor’s degree in neurobiology. Eventually, she hopes to attend medical school at either Harvard or Johns Hopkins.




December 2013

things that hurt you. So I wouldn’t change anything that happened to me, even the worst things, because they made me stronger.” CONNECT: To learn how you can help support Vida and other students at State College of Florida, contact The State College of Florida Foundation at 941-752-5390. Or email


December 2013 issue of Scene Magazine


December 2013 issue of Scene Magazine