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Student Shares the Crazy Story Behind Her Winning Beyoncé’s Homecoming Scholarship

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When Xavier University student Allana Barefield was checking the news on Monday morning, she didn’t expect that she would be part of the headlines. But that’s what happens when Beyoncé selects you to be one of the eight recipients of her Homecoming Scholars Award Program.

When Barefield, a 22-year-old rising senior studying mass communications with a focus on broadcast, found out she received Beyoncé’s scholarship, she was brought to tears, telling TIME it was a “dream come true.” The Homecoming Scholars Award program is a scholarship dedicated for historically black colleges and universities, which awards each student $25,000 for their studies.

“All of a sudden a notification popped up on my phone and someone said, ‘Congratulations!’ and I was like, ‘What’s going on?'” she told TIME. “I had to call my mom right away. I had no clue, I was kind of nervous because I hadn’t heard back from the committee yet and a lot of people were applying for this prestigious scholarship, so to be a recipient was amazing.”

This isn’t the first time that Beyoncé has touched Barefield’s life. A devoted member of the Beyhive, the pop star’s avid fan base, she met Queen Bey at a party that Solange threw for NBA weekend in 2017. There, she was able to have a conversation with her about how much she and her late father enjoyed her music together. Barefield said that Beyoncé thanked her for being a committed fan and now it’s Barefield who’s grateful.

“Everything comes full circle,” she said. “When I look at Beyoncé, it’s like one of the last connections I have with my dad. Me and my dad, we would sing “Love on Top” together, listening to her just brings back those memories.”

Barefield wrote her winning application essay about Jemele Hill, a journalist whose work she’s long admired, especially because they both got their start in high school with the National Association of Black Journalists.

“Obviously, for the upcoming year, [with this scholarship] it’s a way to pay off what’s not already paid. It’s a way to continue being a leader on campus and to be a leader in my community,” she said.

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Write to Cady Lang at cady.lang@timemagazine.com