CPS grad finds ‘UC makes dreams come true’

Student shadows physicians, balances studies and sports while still finding time for Marvel’s antics

Benya Coleman never gets tired of the well wishes and she’s still a bit teary-eyed.

The newly-minted high school graduate was one of 10 students awarded the University of Cincinnati’s Marian Spencer Scholarship created to recognize high-achieving students in Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS). Coleman, a student at nationally accredited and STEM-certified Hughes STEM High School, was caught by surprise with the announcement at a school gathering earlier this year.

“I always hear congratulations from strangers, teachers and co-workers,” says Coleman. “It means a lot to see people in the community showing love. People always tell me how lucky I am and I agree.”

Coleman doesn’t bring it up to strangers or even family or friends because she doesn’t want to seem like “I’m bragging and I am not,” says Coleman. “This is just such good news, it’s hard not to share. I think to myself, ‘If they haven’t seen it anywhere then maybe I shouldn’t bring up,’ but if I’m asked about scholarships or what college, I am going to reply with ‘I got a full ride to UC!’”

Coleman graduated from Hughes STEM HIgh School Tuesday, May 17, at a ceremony at UC's Fifth Third Arena. She plans to study medical sciences and has been admitted into the UC College of Medicine. Coleman has wanted to be an obstetrician for years.

Benya Coleman shown with UC's Jack Miner, vice president of enrollment management.

Benya Coleman is shown at Hughes High School during a surprise announcement from UC's Jack Miner, vice president of enrollment, of her full ride to the university. Photo by Andrew Higley/UC Creative + Brand.

The Marian Spencer Scholarship is made possible thanks to an investment of $6 million  — the result of a gift from UC alumnus and venture capitalist Jim Goetz and university matching funds — and will allow 10 CPS students a year to receive full tuition, room and board scholarships and other opportunities. The first 10 Spencer Scholars will enroll in fall 2022, and by 2023 the program will include at least one student from each of the 18 high schools within CPS. 

The scholarship honors Cincinnati civil rights icon and UC alumna Marian Spencer, who was instrumental in desegregating Cincinnati’s Coney Island as well as Cincinnati Public Schools. Spencer went on to become the first African American woman elected to Cincinnati City Council in 1983. As a Black student in the late 1930s and early 1940s, she wasn't permitted to live in a dorm on UC’s campus. Today, there is a residence hall that bears her name, opened in 2018. The Marian Spencer Scholars will form a living-learning community housed together in the residence hall.

Coleman says the scholarship announcement has just made her work harder in school and not disappoint her family. She is employed at a Cincinnati hospital as part of a school-to-work program. “I enjoy being in a hospital environment,” says Coleman. “It’s very rare to graduate high school with two years of hospital experience in eight different departments.”

She also finds time to stay active in sports, playing volleyball and softball and has a weekend job at a restaurant to make extra money.

Benya Coleman shown in a classroom at Hughes STEM High School.

Benya Coleman shown in a classroom at Hughes STEM High School. Photo provided.

“I use my free time, whenever I get some, to watch thriller movies and to try and remake foods off of TikTok,” says Colemen. “I also enjoy remaking movie scenes from my favorite movies. I like the movies 'The Book of Life,' 'The Long Kiss Goodnight,' “'Turning Red,' 'The Book of Henry,' 'Dreamgirls' and I love the TV show “'Law and Order.'

“I did want to write, direct and act in movies when I was younger,” says Coleman. “I’m also a really big Marvel fan, I can talk about Marvel for hours and rewatch all the movies.”

After Coleman’s high school graduation, she plans to continue working during the summer, but also try to find time for some fun before UC classes begin. She’s also excited about the chance to shadow medical professionals at a hospital in New York, attend a wedding in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and to get a driver’s license.

“I’m so excited to start UC this fall,” says Coleman. “I have nothing but love and thanks to the entire UC community. I don’t think they understand how they have changed my life for the better. UC makes dreams come true.”

Benya Coleman is joined by family and supporters at Hughes STEM High School after UC announces she is a Marian Spencer Scholar.

Benya Coleman is joined by family and supporters at Hughes STEM High School after UC announces she is a Marian Spencer Scholar. Photo by Andrew Higley/UC Creative + Brand.

Benya Coleman shown receiving her high school diploma.

Benya Coleman shown receiving her high school diploma during graduation.. Photo by Andrew Higley/UC Creative + Brand.

Benya Coleman shown during her graduation.

Benya Coleman shown during her graduation. Photo by Andrew Higley/UC Creative + Brand.

Hughes High School Prinicipal Dr. Jennifer Williams congratulations Benya Coleman with flowers.

Hughes High School Prinicipal Dr. Jennifer Williams congratulates Benya Coleman. Photo by Andrew Higley/UC Creative + Brand.

Benya Coleman and her mother react after learning of the Marian Spencer Scholarship.

Benya Coleman and her mother react after learning of the Marian Spencer Scholarship. Photo by Andrew Higley/UC Creative + Brand.

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