In 2017, Da’juh Sawyer and Dontriel Fletcher started the Make It Out Foundation with a mission to enhance the lives of students in the St. Petersburg community by providing financial assistance to those attending Florida A&M University. The Social Justice Fund’s shared services program helped them create their first website and donor portal to grow the scholarship.
After graduating from Gibbs High School just a few years ago, two young FAMU students began to wonder why there were so few students from St. Pete at their university.
“One day after class, I was saying to Dontriel that I’d been having this initiative on my heart to do something for kids back home,” shared Da’juh Sawyer. “Having the financial means to go to school, I know how it was for me,” she added. “To get to college, it was hard, financially — my mom was a single parent.”
“I was told that scholarships were everywhere … that you could get one for being left-handed,” remarked co-founder Dontriel Fletcher. “But we were thinking specifically about St. Pete kids; we wondered why people from St. Pete weren’t going to college,” he mused, referring to the abundance of students they met at FAMU hailing from Miami and Jacksonville, who he said, “came by the hundreds.”
Da’juh feels exposure and recruitment were sorely lacking during their time at Gibbs High School; only two of her teachers and a grandfather who went to FAMU provided her inspiration. Neither Da’juh nor Dontriel remembered FAMU — or any colleges — coming to recruit at Gibbs during their year, and Dontriel only remembers one school trip to a college.
“I didn’t even know there were HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) until 12th grade,” Dontriel asserted.
Da’juh, who called herself “driven,” went through Gibbs’ business program and still remembered only about four students from her class going off to college. Still, in the traditional program, where 99% of the kids were African American, she couldn’t think of any. “A lot of them stayed home.”
Dontriel added, “A lot of people ended up getting pregnant and working two jobs. People don’t aspire to go to college in St. Pete. They just think, ‘I graduated from high school; that’s it.’” He observed that the ones that go to college usually go to play sports.
On Nov. 29, 2017, Da’juh and Dontriel started The Make It Out Foundation, and the initial goal for their first year was to raise $300. However, using various social media outlets (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram), the organization raised $1,200 and awarded seven students with almost $200 each in scholarship money for the 2017-2018 school year.
In the organization’s second year, it awarded eight Pinellas County students $500 scholarships — including seven first-year students and one professional law student.
Today, Da’juh and Dontriel are both FAMU graduates and are excited about the progress they’ve made. After formally incorporating as a 501(c)(3) organization a year ago, they are committed to growth and long-term sustainability. In addition to raising funds for scholarships, they are involved in community outreach and mentorship programs.
MIOF is providing opportunities for incoming freshmen, graduate-level students, and transfer students from the St. Petersburg area who demonstrate academic success and intend on pursuing post-secondary education at Florida A&M University. They also conduct a “College Back to School Drive” that provides dormitory essentials.
MIOF members believe that “giving back to our community provides a virtuous cycle that advances everyone’s success.”
For more information, visit the Make It Foundation website.
Social Justice Fund Supports Education
The Social Justice Fund at Pinellas Community Foundation has been a valuable resource for our community. Contact the Social Justice Fund for more information or to apply for support.