By Staff Writer
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Upon graduating from Greater Atlanta Christian School, freshman Jala Turner decided to continue her family’s legacy as a TSU Tiger while creating one of her own after being accepted into the second cohort of The Visa Black Scholars and Jobs Program.
The program is in partnership with The Thurgood Marshall College Fund and provides assistance for Black and African American high school graduates in the United States with a minimum G.P.A. of 3.0 who plan to attend an accredited four-year college or university to pursue an undergraduate degree in business or technology.
“When all of us were on the Zoom call and found out that we got the scholarship, we were crying and everything. It’s amazing and a really big honor for me,” says Turner who is pursuing a Bachelor of Business Administration and a minor in Spanish.
“Being a Visa Black Scholar shows everyone that I have a lot to offer, and I’m so glad that someone saw my talent. It feels good to receive this scholarship and have these opportunities.”
In addition to receiving a needs-based scholarship grant of up to $20,000 per year for four years, Turner and fellow scholars will be mentored by a Visa employee, receive training throughout the year, attend an all-expenses paid Scholar Summit next summer, intern at one of Visa’s locations, and gain full-time employment with Visa upon graduation and successful completion of the program.
“The program is very beneficial. I have a mentor, Maria, and she’s great. She’s Hispanic and I’m minoring in Spanish, so I’m happy they made that connection,” says Turner.
“The summer of my sophomore year I can start doing paid internships with Visa and choose from any Visa corporation around the world, so I’m very excited for that. I don’t know where I want to go, but it’s a great opportunity. Also, there’s a guaranteed job offer after I graduate, and I think that’s great because I won’t have the stress of wondering what am I going to do after college.”
Turner’s parents, Anwar and Nicole of Lawrenceville, GA, agree.
“We are so proud of Jala walking in our footsteps as TSU Alumni as well as her brother and a host of other family members who have attended TSU since 1912. Her father and I were members of the Aristocrat of Bands, so it’s even more exciting to see her get involved on campus as a TSU cheerleader,” says Nicole.
“We are thrilled that she was selected for this highly competitive program. She will not have the stress that so many will feel trying to find a paid summer internship before graduation. She won’t have the struggle of trying to find a mentor within her field to develop and coach her to the next level. Most important, she will never have to bear the burden of graduating without employment. Through Visa, one of the top companies in the world, she has a direct pathway into her career. We are grateful and extremely proud that she gets to represent TSU in this elite program.”
Turner graduated high school with a 3.6 GPA and was a member of the varsity golf club, the varsity dance and cheer teams, the Beta Club, the National Honor Society, the National Honor Society of Dance Arts, and the Spanish Club.
Community service was also a major part of her activities. This included introducing elementary school students to dance and a mission trip to Puerto Rico where we painted the recreation area in an orphanage. She was accepted into seven of the ten universities she applied to and ultimately chose TSU because, for her, it’s home.
“When I was looking at colleges, I had a list of what I needed. I wanted to go to an HBCU, I wanted to be close to family, and I wanted to cheer,” says Turner who has been dancing since she was two and cheering since she was four. “We’re a TSU family. My parents, my older brother, and my family went here; so, I grew up at TSU. Also, half of my dad’s side lives in Nashville. I feel like the icing on the cake was me making the cheer team. I grew up watching TSU cheerleaders and knew I had to be one of them. So, when I got on the team, I had everything: family, the HBCU experience, and my cheer sisters. It was perfect.”
Jala hopes to have her own real estate company one day, but for now, she wants to focus on keeping her grades up and networking with fellow students and professionals on campus.
Turner encourages anyone wanting to attend college to research and apply for as many scholarships as possible, even the unsolicited ones that come via email.
“See which ones benefit you and apply early,” she says. “Also, don’t count yourself out even if you don’t have the best grades. Just try your best and put yourself out there. Keep working hard and you’ll eventually reach your goals.”