“I was shocked because I didn’t expect it,” Viard said. “When I found out I received it, I honestly was very grateful for it.”
The BFSA scholarship awards one undergraduate and graduate student each year.
“We understand that with the rising cost of education and the high cost of books this can be economically challenging for a student, so this is our way in assisting two students,” Gene Murdock, BFSA president, said.
BFSA scholarship committee member, Reginald Lucien, said one of the key criteria they look for in recipients is how they are giving back to their community.
Viard, he said, exemplified the community service they were looking for.
“She is an outgoing young lady. She’s really striving to do her best and I love the fact that she’s very proactive about finding ways to give back to the community. Saika has a strong work ethic and I admire that characteristic about her,” Lucien said.
Viard is actively involved in USF Club Creole, where she has taken on leadership roles and participated in numerous community service events including Feeding America and road clean-ups.
“This scholarship is not just about the money, they want to see me succeed,” Viard said.
Before transferring to USF, Viard obtained her associate’s from Hillsborough Community College, where she was involved in student government initiatives.
She served as president of HCC’s student government association, as well as vice president of the Collegiate 100 and a member of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society.
“Saika struggled financially and even worked three jobs along with being a full-time student,” said Sara Crooke, Viard’s student government association advisor at HCC. “While many students would crumble under the pressure, Saika somehow found time to organize a food drive or volunteer at a local church. She gave all of herself over to serving others and hardly ever asked for anything in return.”
Viard also established a relationship between HCC and the “Rachel Project” to stop human trafficking.
Born in Cité Soleil, Haiti, Viard moved to the United States when she was just four-years-old, living in Miami and Key West before settling in Tampa.
During her first trip to back to Haiti, after the catastrophic earthquake in 2010, she realized her calling to pursue a degree in the public health field.
“I was so overwhelmed with what was going on, but while I was there, I saw so many public health issues from environmental pollution to malnutrition,” Viard said.
The scholarship is a positive reminder of the direction Viard’s actions are taking her and how far she’s come, as her past has seen some difficult days.
Shortly before joining USF, Viard said she spent the majority of her time caring for her younger siblings as her family of nine lived in a cramped hotel room after losing their home. She also said during this time that she lost one of her closest friends in a car accident.
However, the one thing that remained a constant in her life was her dream to finish her undergraduate degree at the USF COPH.
“I could see that the professors were really knowledgeable and very passionate,” Viard said. “You don’t feel alone here, everyone is willing to help, and I knew I wanted to be a part of that.”
Viard plans to graduate next summer.
She hopes to carry out her passion of helping those in need in Haiti, Africa, India and South America.
“Anywhere that needs my help, I wouldn’t mind going,” Viard said. “I know I’m passionate about this [public health] and would like to contribute anyway that I can.”
Viard plans to continue her educational endeavors at the USF COPH and pursue a master’s degree in public health.
“From what I’ve seen so far, I really want to continue being a part of this,” Viard said. “Everyone is like family here and I haven’t met anyone that’s in the public health field doing it just to do it. They all have a passion for it and want to make a difference.”
Story by Anna Mayor, USF College of Public Health