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Biz Student Mosheh Vann, and Brother, Eliiahu, a Recent Grad, Establish a Scholarship Fund

By Keith Morelli

Mosheh and Eliiahu Vann

TAMPA (April 10, 2019) -- Mosheh and Eliiahu Vann can’t wait to pay it forward.

Five years ago, Mosheh Vann was a high school senior about to embark on the next chapter of his life and his brother, Eliiahu was just settling in at USF. Mosheh recalled that he wasn’t sure if college was for him, but he enrolled in the University of South Florida as a first-generation college student. Walking into the Muma College of Business then, he knew he had found a home, alongside his brother. Now, he is getting ready to walk the stage of the Yuengling Center in May to set sail on a new course into uncharted territory.

But before he does that, he and his brother have some business to take care of here. Through a diligent savings plan, he and Eliiahu, both recipients of various scholarships during their time here, started their own scholarship for first-generation students. It is rare for students to be receiving scholarships and providing scholarships during the same semester, but there it was: The Vann Brothers Beating Adversity Scholarship was established at the end of February.

The brothers made an initial five-year commitment to their fund. The initial, year-one investment to start the fund was $1,000 with a goal of donating a minimum of $10,000 this first year with the help of some outside contributors.

“We are actively working with a few corporate sponsors and local executives to maximize the impact of our fund,” said Eliiahu Vann, a business development executive with Gartner, which also employed Mosheh for a short time last year. Gartner will pitch in a one-to-one match on all funds donated and the state of Florida also matches funds contributed at a two-to-one match, he said.

The most difficult part of starting this scholarship wasn’t the scrounging and saving of money. It was writing the check. Actually, writing the check.

“I remember sitting in Melissa Bryson’s (associate director of development) office and thinking to myself that the last time I wrote a check my mom helped me finish signing and addressing it,” Mosheh Vann said. “I realized that I did not know how to write a check, but I was determined not to let that stop me from starting our scholarship. With Melissa’s help I signed the first check to kick start our scholarship on Feb. 28.

“This was one of the most humbling yet, humorous experiences of the year.”

Bryson said the check signing situation was humorous, but she was impressed by the sincerity the Vann brothers exhibited in creating a scholarship for deserving students.

“We get scholarship donations from giant corporations and from all kinds of nonprofits,” she said. “But it’s the ones that come from our students and recent graduates that make the biggest impression; the ones who literally can't wait to pay it forward.

”These are people who don’t have much disposable income,” she said, “yet they find it in their make-up to create something lasting that will help other students achieve success.”

Funding a scholarship is a first for the Vann brothers. Receiving a scholarship is something they know something about.

“From day one at USF, we realized that without the combination of scholarships we received, our college dream would not have been a reality,” said Mosheh Vann, who currently works as a logistics coordinator with Integrity Express Logistics. “Knowing all too well that there are countless people in the same, if not worse situations, we quickly began to study how we could help those people reach their full potential.”

Both brothers were involved in the Corporate Mentor Program and that has impacted their lives significantly. And both have met scholarship donors that have inspired them to push each other past what they thought was possible.

“These mentors were a constant source of inspiration because they took the time, money and resources out of their own lives to help people like us,” Mosheh Vann said. “After receiving these scholarships, from people like Mike Mahagan and Debbie Lundberg, and seeing how they cared about our success, we dreamed that we could one day become like them. From that point forward it was not a question of if we should make a scholarship, it was only a question of how soon.”

The brothers decided they could make this dream a reality over the Christmas break while at a family event. They met with Bryson and wrote out a check (with a little help) two weeks later.

“This was so significant for us because if you asked us about starting a scholarship at age 22 and age 24, a few years ago, we probably would not have known what to say,” said Eliiahu Vann. “With the help from our mentors we were able to make this happen much earlier than we ever imagined.

“The long term goal is to get to the point at which we are helping 40 to 50 students by our fifth year,” he said. “In the meantime we feel compelled to make an impact now and scale it up as quickly as possible.”

As children, Mosheh and Eliiahu, their parents and three brothers moved around a lot. They lived in Oregon, Washington, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Florida.

“The one thing that became constant in all those changes was our desire to beat the odds and overcome the adversity we encountered on a daily basis,” Eliiahu Vann said, explaining the name of the scholarship. “For a long time, we thought attending university was a pipe dream, but because of scholarships like the one we now established, this dream became very real for the first time.”

The goal is to assist students like the Vann brothers, first-generation-in-college students.

“We hope this scholarship will help students who come from humble beginnings; students who have the ambition to take their lives to the next level but lack the finances to get there,” Mosheh Vann said. “Throughout college, we both worked internships and/or jobs at the same time to simply afford rent, textbooks and other essentials that most students take for granted.

“Without the generous donations from scholarship donors, we would not have been able to afford textbooks or take time off of work to get involved on campus and develop professionally,” he said. “We hope this scholarship will help people in that situation so they can take advantage of the opportunities that the Muma College of Business provides.”