When Crenshaw High School junior Sharron Pearson asked for permission to apply for a scholarship to attend a summer program at Oxford University, her father’s response was blunt: “No. We can’t afford it.”
Sharron, 17, applied anyway. “Then I went to work trying to persuade my parents to reconsider,” she recalled. “I just knew they’d come around and see things my way.”
A month ago, Sharron was among 400 high school students from around the world chosen to attend the Oxford Tradition 2009 on a scholarship that covers tuition, breakfast and dinner, and 28 days of room and board in a dorm. Her studies will emphasize drama and creative writing.
Sharron is the first Crenshaw High student to be accepted by the program, school officials said.
Now, less than three months from the start of class July 5, her father, Fred Pearson, 49, is scrambling to raise donations for the airfare to get her there.
Crenshaw High has also established a donation fund for the student. “If we reach $2,500, we will stop accepting donations on her behalf,” said Assistant Principal Paul Scibetta -- firstname.lastname@example.org -- who is coordinating the fundraising effort.
Sharron figures she will need about $2,500 to cover the costs of round-trip airfare and spending money over the course of the program, which is funded by New York-based Oxbridge Academic Programs.
“If the fundraisers fail,” she said with smile, “a neighborhood carwash is pending.”
Sharron, who has a 4.2 grade-point average, has also applied for a summer program in Japan. “That program is my second choice,” she said, “because it does not have an academic component.”
At Crenshaw High, she is a member of the student council and junior steering committee, as well as the girls’ water polo and softball teams. She is co-founder of Building Academic Mindsets, an online club in which she and other peers tutor students. She also takes classes at West Los Angeles College for college credit.
After high school, she hopes to attend Columbia University and major in anthropology and journalism, then enroll in medical school.
“Sharron is well rounded, self-motivated, inquisitive and focused -- all characteristic of a gifted student,” said Rochelle Hall, her counselor and coordinator of the magnet school for gifted students at Crenshaw.
“Now, she has a wonderful opportunity to study at Oxford,” she said. “Not too many kids from South-Central get an opportunity to study abroad because of the financial hardship it places on the family.”
Sharron’s mother is unemployed and her father’s income is stretched trying to support another daughter’s education at UC Santa Barbara.
“Sharron deserves to go to Oxford,” said Pearson, who recently informed the Oxford Tradition’s admissions department that the family needs more time to confirm travel plans and arrival dates.
“I asked for a delay, but I didn’t say for how long,” he said. “We’re not giving up until the 11th hour on July 4.”
If all goes according to plan, Sharron will return in mid-August, just in time to fly off to a separate 10-day academic program for gifted students at UC Berkeley.
“That program,” she said, “is completely paid for.”