When the encouragement of others changes your life
During the past two years, I have had dramatic changes occur in my life, and I have discovered the value of mentorship. I spent many years of my life at home sick with various diseases. I finally learned how to manage my diseases when I turned seventeen. On my seventeenth birthday, a manager at a local restaurant requested that I start working for him. This news shocked me, and I, in a stupor, accepted his offer. This would be my first time participating in a public setting since elementary school. My first day of work, my manager taught me how to interact with customers and co-workers. Before long, I looked forward to working each day. I became so enthralled with the atmosphere that I looked for a second job after only one month. I secured a job at a local fast-food restaurant and began working full time there as well. To go from too sick to attend school to working two full time jobs provided me a realization, “I could do anything as long as I dedicate myself in full.” Before long; however, my working two jobs got interrupted.
Seeing as I had only turned seventeen, my mother still had control over my actions. She called both my jobs and requested that I not be scheduled for work until I earned GED. When I learned of what had happened, I reluctantly took the GED examination. Looking back at it now, the event makes me laugh, but at the time, I could only think of how livid it made me. I passed the examination and showed to my bosses the proof. When I did, both my bosses and my mother all encouraged me to continue my education. They told me, “you are young now, but you will not be forever, you should open all the doors available to you, so that you are not stuck with only one option.” With their words of encouragement in tow, I enrolled in classes at the local community college. This seemingly insignificant event started a new chapter in my life.
I started my first semester at community college and I had to learn how to fit in to a brand new environment, one that seemed completely different from my work environment. I chose to maintain working both of my jobs because I wanted to have places where I felt comfortable going to while attending college. After approximately one month, I made friends with an honors student and the honors coordinator. These two individuals made community college feel like a home and they were my family members. Once they made the school feel like a home, I finally had the courage to resign from one of my jobs.
The honors student I met upon starting school became the Phi Theta Kappa chapter President, and the Honors Coordinator had the title of Phi Theta Kappa Advisor. With their support, I joined the Honors College and Phi Theta Kappa. I dedicated most of my time to supporting the Phi Theta Kappa chapter and President. I assisted with the Honors in Action Project. In the process, I worked with the Humanities Department Chair at my community college to create a course, “Sociology of Community Involvement.” I volunteered for many non-profit organizations, and I interviewed many individuals. The following semester, I ran for Phi Theta Kappa’s International Vice President of Division II with my chapter President supporting me as my campaign manager. Through this endeavor, I had to face my fear of speaking in public by participating in a Live Caucus in front of more than seven hundred individuals. I did not get the position I ran for, but I gained something more valuable, experience.
When we returned, I began applying for Phi Theta Kappa scholarships, primarily the Coca-Cola Scholarship. I almost submitted the application without applying to the Pearson Scholarship, but one of my advisors stopped me and told me to apply for the Pearson Scholarship. I did not think I had any chance, but I applied. When September came around, I could not believe it, I had won!
This scholarship provided me with much needed funds to continue my educational journey, but it also provided me so much more. I gained self-confidence, a Pearson mentor, free textbooks, and peace of mind. The one-on-one time with a Pearson mentor benefits me the most out of all that this scholarship provides. I have had mentors ever since I started to work at O’Charley’s. My original managers, my mother, the honors coordinator, the Chair of the Humanities Department, the Phi Theta Kappa chapter President, my mathematics instructor, and now the Pearson mentor. Those mentors have had an integral role in my life. I feel as though Pearson has bestowed a blessing upon me.
Brendan is a recipient of the 2016 Pearson Scholarship for Higher Education. Each Pearson Scholar is paired with a Pearson professional mentor who provides support as Scholars progress toward degree completion. We are incredibly proud of all the Pearson Scholars. Please check back as we continue to highlight each scholar’s story!