Leadership Student’s Faith, Determination Guide Her New Mission

If Denise Grant has learned anything as a student at Palm Beach Atlantic University, it’s how to turn an obstacle into an instrument for success.

Grant, a suburban Lake Worth wife and mother, endured one personal hardship after another while taking evening classes toward her degree in organizational management in PBA’s MacArthur School of Leadership. To her surprise, she graduated at the top of her class in December 2016 and was named the fall Outstanding Graduate for her school.

Dr. Nick Palmieri (left) congratulates his advisee, Denise Grant, at the fall 2016 commencement ceremony.Dr. Nick Palmieri (left) congratulates his advisee, Denise Grant, at the fall 2016 commencement ceremony.

She is continuing her studies at PBA and is working toward a master’s degree in leadership. She also has taken on leadership roles at her church and at the school her two daughters attend, Trinity Christian Academy, where she works as the culinary lunch leader ensuring that some 500 children receive nutritious meals each day.

“Because of my hope in Christ and because of the knowledge and experiences I have received and continue to receive being at Palm Beach Atlantic University in the leadership program, I know that my future is bright,” Grant said.

Looking back on her journey, Grant sees how God’s hand moved in major ways.

Grant grew up in the island nation of Antigua and Barbuda and left a successful career in the banking field to move to the United States at age 25. Her husband, Myron, came to the U.S. to pursue educational goals, and afterward the couple decided to make a home in Florida.

She, too, sought to further her education, and Grant earned an associate’s degree from a local Bible college. Though she hoped to return to the school to complete her bachelor’s degree, a life-threatening illness put her plans on hold. After she recovered, her daughters Maquea and Makayla, now ages 10 and 12, were born.

About five years ago, she again felt a tug on her heart leading her to return to school. But after she re-enrolled at the Bible college, “two days before my first class everything fell apart,” Grant said. 

Though she felt discouraged, “I kept hearing a voice telling me that I needed to prepare myself.”

She followed up on a friend’s recommendation that she look into Palm Beach Atlantic University based on its Christian worldview. She enrolled in the organizational management program in the MacArthur School of Leadership.

Again, one week before she was due to start, tragedy struck. This time, Grant’s mother was diagnosed with cancer. A few weeks later her sister was injured in a fall. After hospitalization she, too, was diagnosed with cancer.

At her family’s urging, Grant began attending her classes anyway. Her first course, taught by Assistant Professor of Business Tom Miller, became her lifeline. She came to look forward to the devotionals at the opening of each class.

Those messages “kept me in the Word, which I needed that season,” Grant said. 

There were other challenges as well, including a major financial setback that threatened to derail her educational plans at one point.

Yet she continued to excel in her classes, motivated by the personal mission statement she crafted as a class assignment: “My mission in life is to truly reflect Christ and by using my faith, my life experiences and my education, to influence and inspire my family and others unto spiritual, personal and professional growth and change.”

She said she was grateful for the strong support team and the prayers of many people, including her immediate family, her cohort and her friends, as well as her PBA family — admissions counselor Kay Joyce; professors, including Pam Sigafoose; her mentor and friend Dorothy Logan, who serves as e-learning coordinator for the MacArthur School of Leadership; and her advisor, Dr. Nick Palmieri.

“Denise Grant is a woman who exemplifies a life of integrity, purpose, dedication and perseverance,” Palmieri said. “She is highly respected by both her peers and professors. Denise is authentic in her Christian life as evidenced by her kind, compassionate demeanor. She is a true servant leader.”

Grant said she hopes that her story will encourage other adults looking to further their education. “My goal in being so authentic is to let adult learners know that Palm Beach Atlantic is a strong Christian university equipped with the right tools and the best faculty who will educate, empower and prepare students to successfully navigate — personally, emotionally, spiritually and academically — throughout their educational journey and beyond.”

Grant encourages all who are considering going back to school to surround themselves with a strong support team, be persistent and establish a balance between their spiritual, personal, professional and academic life.   

“The education I have received and continue to receive at Palm Beach Atlantic University is life transforming beyond financial gain,” Grant said. “Being awakened to who I am, and knowing that what I believe empowers me to function ethically in all of my dealings, are just a few of the legacies that I have received from my professors’ teachings.”