A college degree is one of the most valuable tools to success, but now more than ever young adults are faced with obstacles ultimately limiting their chances of achieving this dream.

Clemson joined the Annexstad Family Foundation’s Leaders for Tomorrow national scholarship program in 2016, with the scholarship awarded to Xavier Smith ’20, a McColl, S.C. native. The high school senior was overjoyed to learn that he was Tigertown Bound. However, in addition to a feeling of joy also came a feeling of apprehension. How would the cost of his college education be covered?

The Leaders for Tomorrow scholarship was an unforgettable surprise to Smith. “I was really excited when I found out I received it. I called my entire family, and they got excited, too,” he said.

“The first day I got to Clemson, I was so excited. My roommate is one of my friends from high school, and we spent the day walking around campus meeting new people. Without the Annexstad Family Foundation Scholarship, I wouldn’t be here right now having these moments,” he said.

Smith never watched much college football prior to coming to Clemson, but that has certainly changed since becoming a Tiger. He has developed a strong love for Clemson football and is happy to say the team won the 2016 College Football National Championship his freshman year.

Xavier Smith '20.

Xavier Smith ’20.

In addition to campus activities, the scholarship is guiding the biochemistry major along the path to achieving his dreams of going into the medical field. Smith is currently considering both neurology and pharmacy and is thankful for the opportunity to do so.

Like Al and Cathy Annexstad, Smith isn’t letting his past hardships stop him from achieving his goals, and it’s important that those who face similar situations do the same.

“We are delighted that Clemson has chosen to partner with us,” noted co-founder Al Annexstad. “Young people like Xavier represent a huge reservoir of future leaders for the country. We wish him well.”

Thanks to the Annexstad family’s generosity, the financial burden for many young students across the country has been lifted. “To anyone who is experiencing or has overcome a challenging upbringing, there are programs out there,” Smith said. “They want to help you further your education. They know it’s hard for you and will help you in any way possible.”