The George W. Jenkins Scholarship helped Lillee Izadi on her journey to become a physician

Lillee Izadi presenting research

Lillee Izadi grew up in a single-parent home, her father being her role model as he raised Lillee and her siblings in their mother’s absence. Then he was arrested, leaving her to care for the younger Izadis as she worked two part-time jobs, attended school and extracurricular activities, and applied to colleges—including Florida Southern College.

It was there that an admissions counselor suggested she apply for the George W. Jenkins Scholarship program, funded by Publix Super Markets Charities. The program helps successful high school students who have experienced adversity attend four-year colleges. It provides full tuition and fees, on-campus room and board, meals, a computer if one is needed, a stipend, and more for four years, if students continue to meet requirements. Lillee is grateful she received the scholarship, which covered the high cost of her education.

Growing up in an economically disadvantaged household in Sarasota, Lillee said she knew she would have to apply for grants and scholarships to mitigate the financial burden of college. But she was going to find a way to become a physician.

“In addition to the economic hardship, I generally had to overcome the obstacles that come with being the first woman in my family to attend and finish college,” she said. “My mother struggled with addiction and was absent for much of my childhood. For that reason, my father was a very prominent figure in my life—I like to attribute my opportunistic drive to him.”

Lillee was 17 when he was jailed. With everything on her plate, including attending classes, working, and caring for her siblings, she knew she lacked time, resources, and parental support when she was applying for college. But she did not give up.

“Although this financial and personal adversity presented a series of challenges, I was fortunate enough to have my Florida Southern College admissions counselor email me about the George W. Jenkins Scholarship after I was admitted. I am so grateful to this day that I decided to apply. I can also definitively say that if I did not receive it, my life would be very different today.”

Lillee graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Biology in May 2022 and still wonders why she was selected to receive the scholarship.

Lillee Izadi in scrubs

“I can speak for my whole cohort when I say that the applicants who are picked to receive this scholarship have not only experienced tremendous adversity and economic hardship but demonstrated such a level of hyper-resilience in the face of those obstacles that they now bring great promise for the future of their community,” she said.

“The best part of this is that their promise comes in many forms—academic excellence, creative innovation, humanitarian efforts, etc.,” she said, adding that she thinks some scholarship recipients also have a “deep-rooted passion for giving back and investing in others, like George Jenkins himself.”

Lillee currently works as a research coordinator at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine through their Doctoral Diversity Program, a two-year research fellowship for students coming from underserved and underrepresented backgrounds in the medical/STEM fields.

“I am in my second year of the program now, as well as currently in the process of applying to medical school. I have been accepted to some medical school programs, so I will be starting on my journey to becoming a physician next year.”

She’s grateful to Publix Charities for their support.

“Without this scholarship, I can safely say I would not have been able to achieve what I have in the last four years,” she said. “Without the financial encumbrances of student loans and living expenses in college, I was able to take time out of my schedule to engage in the research and volunteer activities that helped me in my applications to medical school. More importantly, this scholarship was my connection to the support system I have now. Two of my closest friends were also George W. Jenkins Scholarship recipients in my cohort. Anytime I was going through a difficult academic or personal obstacle, I had them, as well as my scholarship director, Mr. Bill Langston, to lean on for help and advice. We all know that getting to college is one thing and finishing it is another—this is especially true when you are the first in your family to do it. My scholarship family is really one of the biggest reasons I was able to finish college.”

We are so proud and happy to report that Lillee applied and was accepted to 23 medical schools.  What a phenomenal accomplishment!  She will be enrolling in the medical school at Washington University in St. Louis.  We can’t wait to see all of the amazing things this young lady is going to accomplish!