TAMPA (WFLA) – The City of Tampa Black History Committee recognized the accomplishments of 11 soon-to-be high school graduates at its 25th annual scholarship awards ceremony and reception.

“Failure is not an option,” Earl Knighten said, quoting the speech from St. Petersburg College Professor Steve Marshall.

Knighten said he left Tuesday’s scholarship dinner even more inspired to continue his education next fall at the University of South Florida.

“This is where I’m from,” he said. “These are my people. They got my back.”

The National Honor Society student and multi-sport athlete at Durant High School already has a clothing line called “Desire Society.”

“I’m trying to maybe build on that,” Knighten said. “Get my financial literacy up the charts in college and see where that takes me.”

For Jefferson High School senior Shayla Jones, the financial assistance for college she’s receiving is extra meaningful after a family hardship.

“After my father’s stroke,” she said, “being able to have this scholarship takes the burden off of having to apply for a loan is just an honor.”

The aspiring news reporter said one of her proudest moments was shadowing News Channel 8’s Traffic Anchor Deanne King and late Chief Photojournalist Paul Lamison. King served as the Mistress of Ceremonies for the reception.

“It just answered all of the unanswered questions about what it’s like in the day in the life of a reporter,” Jones said. “Going out there and then seeing the family connection that you all have at the station.”

Both Jones and RaeMarie Parks-Royal are headed to Florida Agriculture and Mechanical University (FAMU).

“I love helping others, but especially animals,” Parks-Royal said while sharing her essay.

She shared how she wants to follow in the footsteps of Dr. Alfreda Johnson Webb, the first Black woman licensed to practice veterinary medicine.

“Being a first-generation prospective college student means the world to me,” Parks-Royal said. “I’m able to set an example for my younger siblings and cousins who look up to me. Most importantly I’m blessed to be given the opportunity of embarking on my dreams and aspirations of becoming a veterinarian.”

In total, the 11 graduating seniors received $21,000 worth of scholarships and book stipends.