From Sketches to Scholarships: Justin Joyner’s Story
Justin Joyner dreamed of pursuing his art dreams in college, but he didn’t know how he would pay for it.
The artistically gifted student had proven himself good enough for South Carolina’s prestigious arts boarding school, but that didn’t change his potential reality of a college experience that included significant debt.
“For all my art enabled me to do, it couldn’t make college affordable for me and my family,” Joyner said. “The price tags for out-of-state colleges were prohibitive. In-state colleges were more affordable but still required an unhealthy dose of financial risk. I contemplated taking out loans, which was one of my biggest fears. I was contemplating asking for money and worked over the summer.”
That’s when Joyner learned about the Meeting Street Scholarship Fund, which gives under-resourced, high-achieving students up to $10,000 per year for college.
The scholarship has been a game changer for Joyner, enabling him to attend Converse University, which is home to one of the state’s premiere art programs.
“It felt like an insane weight lifted from my shoulders,” he said.
Discovering a Passion
Joyner’s journey started in rural Barnwell County where opportunities sometimes feel scarce.
“For most students, the two most obvious paths are academics and sports,” he said. “There was no question that I would excel in academics, given my parents’ regard for education and insistence that I succeed in school.”
Joyner figured out that while he didn’t shine in sports, his competitive side drew out his artistic abilities. He remembers watching an elementary school classmate trace drawings using a blank sheet of paper over a comic book. He thought he could draw what the other child was attempting to trace.
“It turns out I couldn’t, but I was determined to learn how,” he said. “I would sketch anime characters, houses, plants and anything else I could think of. My skill set expanded, and my passion for art deepened.”
His aspiration to become an artist led him to South Carolina Governor’s School for Arts and Humanities. When he first arrived at his new school, he felt out of place without any prior art education. It was a huge blow to his ego when he saw what his new classmates were capable of, he said.
“I thought that everyone was better than me at everything,” Joyner said. “My teachers recognized that I wasn’t confident in what I was creating, and what I did create was worse than it could have been. When I was struggling, I didn’t want to make anything because I thought everything would be trash compared to my peers.”
Despite those initial struggles, his teachers, friends and the library staff were extremely encouraging and had faith in him, he said. Their encouragement gave Justin the tools he needed to boost his confidence and begin creating art he was proud of.
A Pathway to Higher Education
When he heard about the Meeting Street Scholarship Fund, he assumed, based on other scholarship applications he submitted, that the application process would be demanding and not worth the effort.
“The application was simple, so I submitted it and assumed I would never hear from it again–like so many other scholarships I had applied for,” he said.
Within three weeks, he was notified that he was a finalist for the scholarship. He couldn’t wait to tell his parents, mentors and friends.
His first few weeks at Converse have been marked by excitement and transition. He’s ended up loving all of his classes despite some initial false starts, and he’s navigating more homework than expected with his time management skills.
He’s even gotten outside of his comfort zone and taken his own advice of talking to strangers. As a way to meet people, Joyner decided to draw chalk art on the sidewalks around the school. He ended up making friends with some fellow studio arts majors and being featured on the university’s social media for his art.
“We have a profound responsibility to take advantage of our time on campus, overcome obstacles, make our family and supporters proud, maintain our eligibility for this scholarship, graduate on time, finish the job and realize our dreams,” Joyner said.
For more student resources and information about the Meeting Street Scholarship Fund, visit MeetingStreetScholarshipFund.org. For updates, news, and more, follow us on TikTok, Facebook, and Instagram, and sign up for our newsletter.