Sophomore Chanté Parker was the only kid with braces in her inner-city Atlanta neighborhood. Her working-class parents scrimped and sacrificed so she’d have the beautiful smile her mother believed would help build self-esteem. Her parents also nurtured her love of science and dance, enrolling their only child in science enrichment programs and dance classes of every genre, from ballet to hip-hop.
But when Parker was still in grade school, her father told her if she wanted to be the first in their family to go to college, she would have to earn scholarships. So she pursued accelerated courses and extracurricular activities in high school, prompting multiple universities—Spelman, Duke, and UNC-Chapel Hill among them—to entice her with financial assistance.
Determined to leave her comfort zone and expand beyond her “southern mentality,” Parker accepted the Miami Grant, a merit-based scholarship from the University of Miami.
“I also thought I wanted to go into research, and UM was a better research school for me,” says the microbiology major and member of the Sunsations dance team.
Parker’s choice also made her eligible for a $10,000 Chick-fil-A Bowl Scholarship, awarded to Atlanta-area high school graduates attending ACC and SEC schools.
“I probably wouldn’t have come back without it,” says Parker, who faced culture shock in freshman year. “In Atlanta, no one speaks Spanish, and I wasn’t used to seeing people so different. But the extra help relieved some financial stress and motivated me to keep going, to be persistent, to not give up.”
Today Parker has settled into a new comfort zone. She finds her classes and professors invigorating. She loves going to the beach, exploring Greater Miami’s rich cultural tapestry, and practicing her Sunsations routines until they are perfect.
What has not changed is her dream of becoming a dentist. She can think of no better future than helping to put smiles on people’s faces, and no better place to start reaching her goals than UM, where she is a member of the premedical honor society, Alpha Epsilon Delta.
“Here you meet great people, and the school prepares you for what you want to do—and you can experience fun like no other,” she says. “It’s the total package.”