West senior overcomes life obstacles, wins $21,000 scholarship
May 16, 2014 at 12:16 a.m.
Updated May 17, 2014 at 12:17 a.m.
When Tionna Black was a freshman at Edna High School, she faced one the hardest moments in her life - the loss of her grandmother, Carol Hopes.
"We were really close, and I had stayed with her most of my life," Black, 18, said. "Her passing was really hard for me to process."
Her grandmother, who she also refers to as "Big Mama," had taken Black in after her mother, who had just been released from prison, couldn't afford to maintain the family herself.
Friday evening, Black was awarded a $21,000 scholarship at the Beat the Odds banquet. Other Victoria school district students also were honored.
The large amount of the scholarship was a surprise to Black, who was only expecting $5,000, said scholarship coordinator Mary Cox.
"I'm so thrilled about this program," Cox said Friday over the phone before the banquet. "The best surprise for the evening is for Tionna."
The Beat the Odds scholarship fund began in 1998 in memory of Cox's son, Justin Cox, who died after falling asleep while driving.
"It seemed like a really perfect fit because he was a young man that really admired the underdog," Cox said about her son. "He just had a real soft spot in his heart for people able to overcome significant adversity in their lives."
This year was the first time alumni of the scholarship program have contributed funds for other students.
They collected $1,000 to go toward the scholarship, Cox said.
"It's a huge kind of new direction for the program to be going in," Cox said. "These kids have finished college and are giving back."
Black is graduating in the top 20 percent of her class at Victoria West High School, the third high school she attended in four years. She is also the manager of the girls basketball team.
Black now lives with her stepmother, who she described as a strict supporter of her grades.
Her father left the family at the start of her sophomore year, leaving her stepmother alone without his financial support to raise five children.
"Follow your dreams and don't let anybody tell you that you can't do something" is the key to Black's success.