University of Central Florida biomedical sciences majors Daniel Salas and Ekaterina Karelova are the first UCF recipients of a new scholarship from the Johnson Scholarship Foundation geared toward DirectConnect to UCF students. The new scholarships are from an endowment fund created by a partnership between the UCF Foundation and the foundations of Eastern Florida State College, Lake-Sumter State College, Seminole State College and Valencia College.

Salas and Karelova started their first semester at UCF this fall and plan to attend medical school after their 2016 graduation.

Salas, who is from Miami, attended Valencia’s Osceola campus and will continue classes at UCF’s shared campus there. Careers in physical therapy or cardiovascular surgery are two areas of his interest.

Karelova, who is from the country of Georgia, attended Valencia’s East campus and will continue classes at the main UCF campus, Karelova moved to the United States on an international study program when she was 16. She aspired to be a journalist and received an Associate in Business degree from Everest University. Soon after, she changed her career goals and applied to Valencia to pursue a career as an anesthesiologist after medical school.

“There were other options, but DirectConnect to UCF was the best option possible,” said Karelova about deciding on her plan for college.

The UCF College of Medicine at Lake Nona is among the medical schools the two scholars intend on applying to. Johnson Scholars are a cohort of students chosen by the partner colleges. Once selected, they will receive the scholarship until graduation as long as they continue to meet the criteria set by the school. Recipients of the scholarship are deemed “Johnson Scholars,” and throughout their college careers they will have special program requirements that emphasize leadership development.

The Johnson Scholarship Foundation is a national, private foundation with a mission to assist deserving people in achieving higher education and a belief in education as a means to help people succeed in life.

Each of the four partner state colleges are responsible for raising $500,000 that the Johnson Scholarship Foundation will match for a total of $1 million for the individual colleges to disburse while the scholars earn their associate degrees.

In addition, the partner colleges are fundraising collectively for $1 million in scholarships to support their students once they transfer to UCF. The UCF Foundation is also fundraising for $1 million with the agreement that Johnson Scholarship Foundation will match these contributions with a goal of raising $3 million over five years. These contributions will be held by the UCF Foundation and disbursed to the scholars while attending one of the partner colleges and will continue until completion of their baccalaureate degree at UCF. The JSF Endowment scholarships are designed to assist with unmet financial need and only available to students who participate in the DirectConnect to UCF program.

The first Johnson Scholars will be recognized at the Johnson Scholars inaugural luncheon on Oct. 14, hosted by Valencia College. The scholars will receive medallions and have the opportunity to meet with the president of the Johnson Scholarship Foundation, Malcolm Macleod.

“The JSF Endowment is the first joint philanthropy between community and state colleges and a state university,” said Angela Peterson, associate vice president of UCF regional campuses. The partnership was encouraged by JSF based on the success of the DirectConnect program, which UCF began in 2006 to guarantee entrance and accelerated admission to UCF after students complete associate degrees from one of the four partner colleges.

For more information about the Johnson Scholarship Foundation, click here.

To learn more about the DirectConnect to UCF program, click here.