Timothy Garner has always been driven by a deep-seated desire to improve the lives of others.
At Gibbs High School, the St. Petersburg native proved himself to be an outstanding student, graduating early and demonstrating his desire to make a difference for those around him. He was accepted to USF’s St. Petersburg campus for fall 2018 and selected as an Emerging Scholar, a program that currently provides a tuition scholarship and mentorship for three high-achieving local students.
“It was a surreal moment,” Garner said of learning he’d been chosen as an Emerging Scholar. The award affirmed in Garner that all of his hard work during high school would pay off in college. “It was a blessing and an honor,” he added.
Launched in 2018, the Emerging Scholars designation is an award given to students from Pinellas County schools with outstanding leadership potential. Emerging Scholars are required to register for and maintain full-time student status as a degree-seeking student, remain in good academic standing and complete at least 30 credits per year. Key to the program are mentors who serve as role models, provide guidance, motivation and emotional support to help students achieve success.
“This program has been a great asset to the students,” said campus diversity officer Michelle Madden, who served as one of Garner’s mentors. “Being able to receive a world class education in their community is beneficial to both the students and the community. It demonstrates that students don’t have to leave their hometown in order to gain the experience and networks to achieve what they would like to accomplish in life.”
In many ways, Garner exemplifies an Emerging Scholar both for his academic success and commitments outside of the classroom. He has been an active member of USF’s NAACP chapter, the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and serves as the lead musician of Spirit of Tampa Bay, a community gospel choir of which he has been a member since high school.
As a student at USF and member of the Phi Chi Medical Fraternity, Garner explored his passion for equitable health care issues. He co-authored a literature review article centered on the combined effects of health care disparities and limited access to quality care within underserved communities.
“My genuine desire is to enhance quality of life for people who are in moments of affliction,” said Garner, who hopes to become an ophthalmologist. “Sight is such an important sense. Being able to improve the vision of patients is a life goal of mine.”
Garner is on track to graduate college in spring 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in biology and concentration in biomedical sciences. He has eyes set on medical school.
Garner said his experiences as an Emerging Scholar were instrumental to his success. He met regularly with his mentor Master Sargent Milton White, who served as assistant director of the Military and Veterans Success Center Veterans Services, throughout his freshman year. Since then Garner has communicated regularly with other mentors, including Madden and director of orientation and enrollment Serge Desir.
“Tim arrived on our campus as an academic heavyweight, but I do believe that having people around to help navigate the transition from high school has been a tremendous asset,” Madden said. “The growth that I have witnessed in him has been astounding.”
Garner’s outstanding work ethic is undeniable but when he looks back on his accomplishments, he credits his mother for helping him excel.
“Above all, my mother has been very instrumental in my success and where I am today,” he said. “I wouldn’t be graduating early if it wasn’t for her guidance.”