Urban book signing for scholarship help

The University of Florida’s Orange and Blue Spring Game (April 18th, 1 p.m., Ben Hill Griffin Stadium) will have an air of excitement and anticipation for the upcoming 2009 season. It will also take on an air of support for a scholarship program that assists over 1,000 UF students who otherwise might not have the means to attend the university.

UF head football coach Urban Meyer wants to bring attention to UF’s Florida Opportunity Scholars program in an effort to raise private funds for this ongoing program. Pledge forms will be available after the game for attendees to make a donation to the program.

Meyer will also sign a limited number of copies “Urban’s Way”, his authorized biography which was authored by Gator Country executive editor Buddy Martin. All proceeds from the sale of the $25 book and additional contributions will go to the Florida Opportunity Scholars program. The book signing will take place at Gate 1 of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium from 8 to 9 a.m.

“The Florida Opportunity Scholars program directly assists UF students who know what it’s like to have to work a little harder to get what they want to succeed,” said Meyer. “We are a better university because of these hard-working students and the spring game is an opportunity to bring attention to the need to support it going forward.”

The program was established in 2006 by UF President Bernie Machen and provides grants to UF students who are the first in their families to attend college and are from low-income households in Florida. The funds the students receive are used for books, room and board, and other living expenses.

President Machen announced last fall that Meyer and UF’s men’s basketball head coach Billy Donovan agreed to co-chair a drive to raise $50 million for the program.

There are currently 1,100 UF students receiving grants from the program, with that number expected to rise to 1,600 next fall. The annual cost to UF is approximately $8 million, according to Patricia Telles-Irvin, UF vice president for student affairs.

“The response to the Florida Opportunity Scholars program is inspiring,” said Telles-Irvin. “The students in the program are some of the most enthusiastic and successful we have enrolled at UF.

“The rate of Florida Opportunity Scholars returning this year from last is 96%. That’s a tangible sign of a successful effort,” said Telles-Irvin.

The Florida Sports Information Department contributed to this story.