Danijela Janjic was ecstatic when she received her acceptance letter to the University of Florida in 2006. A college degree was her American dream. However, when she realized the acceptance required her to start in the summer term, she wasn’t sure if she would actually become a Florida Gator. While applying for scholarships, she found none that covered summer term costs.
Danijela was born in former Yugoslavia, where her family escaped the Bosnian conflict and fled to the United States in 1997. Her parents didn’t speak English, and while they worked hard, they weren’t in high-paying jobs, so money was tight. Then, unexpectedly, Danijela’s prayers were answered.
“My school told me about this woman, Rebecca Xavier,* who was specifically looking for students attending St. Petersburg High School who were from the former Yugoslavia,” recalled Danijela. “I wondered if they were kidding. What were the chances?”
The Chances Were Very Good
Danijela became the first recipient of a scholarship fund that started to keep a family legacy alive. The fund was created by the Xavier* family in memory of their much-loved St. Petersburg High School graduate, Robert Xavier,* who later went on to become one of the world’s leading experts on Yugoslavia.
The scholarship fund made dreams come true for aspiring college students for more than 15 years. Danijela went on to complete her degree at the University of Florida and then graduated from University of Florida Levin College of Law. Today, she is a senior attorney for the Florida Department of Financial Services as well as the mother of two.
The scholarship completely changed my life; it was an unexpected answer to my prayers. And it wasn’t just because of the financial help for school, Rebecca became a true gift to my entire family. Danijela Janjic, PCF Scholarship Recipient
Reaching Those Who Need It Most
Medina Alisic, her sister, Deanna, and brother, Sead, had the same remarkable experience. With the help of the memorial scholarship, all three achieved their dreams of higher education. “There were three of us going to college at the same time, so the scholarships were critical for our family,” said Medina.
“Rebecca* is such a wonderful person; we would visit her pretty often. When we had big projects, she would support us in many ways,” said Medina. “She was even able to help my brother with books from her personal library.”
For Rebecca,* Pinellas Community Foundation provided exactly what she was looking for — the “assistance without too much interference or cost.”
Working with PCF has been easy. It’s allowed me to focus on the students. These students have enough applications to complete, so I conduct personal interviews. And I insist on meeting with each student at least once a year throughout their college career. I get so much pleasure in keeping up with them. Rebecca Xavier,* Scholarship Fund Benefactor
Rebecca changed the lives of dozens of students in 15 years, and she continues to receive cards and calls from many. In honor of her beloved husband, she has been able to turn his passion into a transformational impact for so many young lives with ties to former Yugoslavia.
*True names in this story were changed out of respect for our donor’s privacy.