FCC Tampa Student Selected for 2021 ‘Be The Change’ Scholarship
Empathy, or the ability to sense and sometimes even feel other people’s emotions, has always played an important role in Latoya Childs’ life.
As a teenager, for example, when her great-grandmother fell ill, watching her family come together to care for their matriarch during her final days inspired Latoya to seek a career in healthcare.
Twenty years later, the hurdles she faced growing up and living as a Black woman in the U.S. inspired her to speak out for greater peace and understanding, a message she construed in her essay submission for this year’s Florida Career College (FCC) Be the Change Scholarship.
Not surprisingly, the FCC Tampa student’s essay attempted to appeal to the one emotion in others that has most driven Latoya throughout her life: empathy.
“Imagine being Black [and] taught in school that your descendants were sold and stolen from Africa, and brought to America to be slaves,” she wrote in a cadenced style, repeatedly calling on readers to imagine. “Imagine being Black, growing up wondering who you are, where your people came from, and why are you different or getting treated different.”
These words struck a chord with the Be the Change Scholarship Committee, which recently honored Latoya as the 2021 Be the Change Scholarship recipient. This honor entitles Latoya to a full-ride scholarship at FCC, where she is currently taking classes to earn her Medical Billing and Front Office diploma by completing FCC’s Medical Billing and Front Office Program.
“It was a big surprise and a big shock,” Latoya said of learning that she’d won the scholarship. “It was great to win it … once it finally processed in my brain. It feels awesome. I am so thankful I get to go out in the field after I graduate and not have to worry about any of my school costs. It just rocks my world.”
Created in support and solidarity of the Black Lives Matter movement, FCC’s Be the Change Scholarship was established to give students a voice in the discussion of social justice, equality, human rights and community change.
“The scholarship committee was moved by Latoya’s essay and I am delighted that she was selected as the 2021 recipient of the Be the Change Scholarship,” said Dr. Fardad Fateri, President and CEO. “With this scholarship, we seek to honor an individual who has the passion, drive and commitment to being an agent of change. While we cannot independently repair the deeply-rooted social and political injustices in our society, as educators we do have the power to spark change within our communities by providing educational opportunities at Florida Career College. In this realm, we are all making a difference for students like Latoya.”
“We were absolutely thrilled when we learned that Latoya was selected for the scholarship. She is a dedicated student who works hard and we are all very proud,” said CiCi Reidy, Campus President at FCC Tampa. “Surprising her with the announcement during class was a very special moment for all of us at the Tampa campus.”
Latoya said the inspiration for her essay submission was her own life – her experiences as a Black woman coupled with her desire for more people to understand and respect one another’s journeys.
“If we’re to be more empathetic and sympathetic to understand people in life, we have to imagine it,” she said. “I wanted my voice to be heard, and I was inspired because I’m dreaming for people to start taking care of ourselves – to go back to respecting one another and building a better society for our children. We’re only going to get there if we’re more empathic to one another and all the pain society has caused and that we’re still creating for ourselves.”
Starting a Career Transition
Latoya had worked in the medical field most of her adult life.
Since experiencing the illness and death of her great-grandmother as a young teenager, Latoya said she felt determined to be prepared to help others – especially her family – if and when the situation arose again.
“I thought, ‘I want to do something like that,’” she said. “I want to care for my family and be there for my family during their last days. So, I took a shot at [the healthcare field] by enrolling in school.”
Early in her adulthood, she’d trained to become a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), a position she’d held for several years. Over the last decade, though, she’s had her eye on transitioning into a different area of the healthcare field.
“I’ve been wanting to do that [Medical Front Office and Billing] program for probably 10 years,” Latoya said. “I felt like I had a passion to learn billing and coding, and I was ready to expand my knowledge and grow in the medical field.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, the changes that came with it inspired Latoya to take stock of her life and her future. In doing so, she realized it was time to begin the career transition she’d been wanting.
She began that journey by enrolling in the Medical Front Office and Billing program at FCC Tampa.
Welcoming the Challenge to Grow
Latoya said she was up for the challenge of training for a new career. Because of this, her level of excitement overshadowed the nervousness she felt entering the FCC classroom for the first time.
“I went in with confidence, though I definitely had to take a deep breath,” she said. “I love learning challenges, and I knew this would be a great challenge for me – one that would train me in something I could carry with me a long way toward retirement.”
It helps, she said, that FCC instructor Michael Smith has been a solid teacher and mentor.
“He’s really helped me to understand what I’m studying and what I’m going to be out in the field doing,” Latoya said. “He’s very good … very, very good. Any questions or doubt or anything, [and] he helps clarify it.”
“I was very happy that Latoya was chosen for the scholarship. During the time she has been in my class, she has demonstrated strong leadership skills,” Michael said. “Latoya is very well liked and respected by her peers. She has always taken great pride in her studies as well as her future in the field of Medical Front Office and Billing. I wish her nothing put prosperity in her endeavors.”
Once she graduates, Latoya envisions herself working on the payer (insurance) side of medical billing. Regardless of where she ends up, however, she looks forward to continually learning and facing new and interesting challenges every day.
It’s all part of continually growing, Latoya says, something about which she’s passionate professionally and as someone who wishes to inject a bit more empathy into the world.
“I maybe hope that my voice can be heard a little bit and grab someone’s attention once in a while to help them starting thinking, ‘Hey, we need to take a step back and start thinking about growth and change and ways of improving our lives,’” she said.