This story is part of an ongoing series that features USF’s black leaders during Black Heritage Month.
As Nadia Niang was having lunch one day, a casual glance at her email would make her happy as she discovered that she was one of two MLK scholarship recipients from the USF Black Alumni Association.
“I was very happy. I was actually at the Hub eating and checking my emails,” Niang said. “I was amazed and so grateful to have this honor.”
Each year, the USF Black Alumni Association recognizes two students enrolled at the Tampa campus who best represent the philosophies of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to receive the $1,000 scholarship.
Freshman biology student Niang and sophomore psychology student Lacorya Lynn were named the Spring 2022 winners on January 11.
Niang said she was inspired by King to take action in her community. She helps out with the Salvation Army, picks up hurricane debris and cleans up the beaches along the Florida coast.
She believes the scholarship will allow her to pursue her goal of becoming a pediatrician and continue to help the community by working with patients. She also appreciates that it allows her to contribute to her school fees.
“It will inspire me to help my community, to continue my education and to be able to become a doctor and help close the healthcare disparities,” Niang said. “We will help people who don’t really have the best way to get medical help.”
Someone Niang has looked up to all his life is his mother, Nodia. Niang said her mother always pushed her to be the best version of herself.
Nodia said she was proud of all the volunteer work her daughter has done for the community, such as feeding the homeless, preparing food baskets for retirees and helping mentor young women.
“Nadia has always had a given heart. I am so proud of this remarkable beautiful lady, inside and out,” said Nodia. “Nadia finds ways to help make the community better and better, one step at a time.”
Lynn found out she had received the scholarship while at work, immediately telling one of her colleagues first. Shortly after, she informed her mother of the news.
She also won the scholarship thanks to her dedication to her local community and her perseverance in the face of personal difficulties.
After her father passed away when she was in ninth grade, Lynn’s mother, Virginia, helped her through her mental health struggles and worked to raise awareness of the importance of teen mental health. She has always volunteered and helped her community ever since.
“Not only did we get the kids involved, but we also got the parents and school officials involved,” Lynn said. “We wanted to make a statement that teen mental health matters and we need everyone on board.”
While still in high school, she was involved in volunteer opportunities through the Black Student Union (BSU) as an event coordinator.
“We have organized events such as road cleaning, soup, cooking, volunteering and car washes,” Lynn said.
After leaving BSU her freshman year of high school, she continued to volunteer with Kids Count, a non-profit organization that provided support to needy students at a local elementary school. She stopped volunteering with Kids Count in March 2020 when the pandemic started and schools switched to online learning.
Volunteering has always been something she loved, and Lynn said she plans to continue helping her community.
Lynn is currently involved with Dream Defenders, a youth advocacy group, and Community Spring, a non-profit organization focused on fighting for a world without prisons, police, surveillance, and punishment.
Virginia motivated Lynn to give back to her community by volunteering, organizing events and helping her through her personal struggles, especially after the loss of her father.
“She helped me defend [different causes]try to make a change and be the change we want to see in this world,” Lynn said.
Lynn said she hopes to become a psychologist to help incarcerated and homeless people.
“I really like those two demographics because I feel like they’re left out of a lot of the conversation,” she said. “I want to help these people and show them that things are getting better and that their feelings and struggles are valid.”
Lynn is currently taking all of her classes online and plans to use the scholarship money to help with living expenses she will have next fall as she plans to move to Tampa.
“Lacorya is very passionate about helping underserved members of the community, especially children,” Virginia said. “[She] overcame a lot of adversity in a short time and that would make her a great candidate to help others.
Virginia believes Lynn is a great choice for the scholarship because of her volunteer work and positive attitude.
“What I admire most about Lacorya is her tenacity, her resilience, her passion for helping others and her desire for happiness despite all the obstacles she has faced,” she said.
Lynn and Niang plan to continue helping the community and exemplifying King’s beliefs and dreams through their volunteer work and future careers.
“I love being involved in my community,” Lynn said. “My whole life is just about helping other people thrive.”