‘Little black girl from Orlando’ tells students to shoot for the stars

Shekinah Washington

A “little black girl from Orlando” told K-12 and college students to dream big during a Black History Month presentation Monday.

Keynote speaker Col. Donna Pilson, a career acquisitions program manager and engineer who served 25 years in the Air Force, promoted the value of education and STEM learning during the event.

“It’s OK to dream big and shoot for the stars, but don’t forget to value the opportunities that you have right now,” she said, noting people often forget to seize the small moments before they reach their bigger moments.

“It wasn’t easy; I almost lost my scholarship due to lack of focus and motivation, but that's when I started to spend extra hours in the library. I wasn’t at the top of my class and I also wasn't at the bottom, but I made it through,” she said.

“If you are the smartest and most successful person out of all the people that you hang out with, then you need new friends,” she cautioned. “You should always surround yourself with people who are on the same level as you or higher, so that you can learn from them.”

Graduating at the top of her class in high school to almost losing her scholarship in college, Pilson encouraged students to never give up on their dreams.  She was the first person out of her family to go to college and stated that if she could do it anyone could do it. 

After all she was “just a little black girl from Orlando,” Pilson repeated throughout her message.  

Damion Dunlap, Ph.D., FSU Panama City mechanical engineering faculty member, echoed her message, encouraging students to follow their dreams and use mentors to ensure they are on the right course to success.

Dean Randy Hanna told students they should always consider the option of being a Seminole because the local campus is making higher education affordable for most people. Money should never be the reason to not attend college, he said, and FSU Panama City offers everyone an equal opportunity to partake in further education.

FSU Panama City’s Black History Month presentation also included the JUDOS Step and Praise Dance Team and Nu Gulf Coast Choir.