Who doesn’t want a second chance or do-over when life’s challenges and obstacles threaten to derail hard fought dreams and goals?
That’s exactly what two Palm Beach Atlantic University students got recently through a scholarship inspired by the legacy of caring of PBA alumnus and U.S. Marine Corps reservist, the late Jeremiah McGraw ’09.
Lt. McGraw, 22, died in September 2009 during a training exercise in Central Florida while serving as a member of the Marine Corps' 4th ANGLICO unit in West Palm Beach. Prior to his death he had earned a bachelor’s degree in organizational management from PBA’s MacArthur School of Leadership.
Graduate students Keiani Worrell of Providenciales, Turks & Caicos and Gregory Riddle of West Palm Beach are the latest beneficiaries of the Jerms McGraw Second Chance Scholarship. In 2012, the classmates together with his parents Tim and Juanita McGraw of Boynton Beach, established the scholarship in his memory to aid students going through significant setbacks or financial hardships in their lives.
Tim McGraw has said his son, affectionately known as Jerms, had a “willingness to help anyone, anytime, anywhere.”
Worrell and Riddle, who are pursuing master’s degrees in organizational leadership, were awarded $1,000 in scholarships for the 2017-18 academic year.
In her application, Worrell, a single mother of a young daughter, told of difficulties they endured shortly after relocating from The Bahamas to Providenciales when Hurricane Irma went on a rampage over the island last September.
Worrell was in her fifth week of online classes at PBA when the powerful Category 5 hurricane hit creating disruptions to her family life and finances in its wake. In its aftermath she struggled with the lack of water and electricity for weeks but remained committed to her studies, finding internet service wherever she could to transmit her assignments. Charging her phone and laptops during the day enabled her to work on assignments at night after work.
The unexpected costs of hurricane preparations and post-recovery efforts left a dent in her finances, which led her to apply for the PBA scholarship.
“Receiving this scholarship will give me the opportunity to start a fresh and can assist in helping me to get back on track financially,” Worrell wrote in her application. “I know that every setback is a set up for something greater and I’m determined to complete my [master’s degree] within the allotted time frame.”
Riddle, a former U.S. Air Force Airman knows all too well about second chances having had a few already in his lifetime. In his scholarship essay he shared how he overcame major mobility and speech impediments caused by a traumatic brain injury to be able to attend graduate school.
Other major challenges would soon test his mettle again, including medical expenses associated with a car accident that left him with a concussion and back and neck injuries. That accident forced him to temporarily halt his studies. Eventually he resumed his studies but then faced mounting auto expenses due to a three-hour commute to classes.
Despite these struggles, Riddle has been paying it forward by mentoring and assisting other veterans in need of help to rebuild their lives after serving their country.
“Finishing this leadership program will allow me to help other veterans,” he noted in his application.
“Lt. McGraw made the ultimate sacrifice and my goal is to honor him,” Riddle said in a phone interview this week. “I want to show the love of Christ to other people and make a difference in as many lives as I can.”
To learn more about the Jerms McGraw Second Chance Scholarship or support its mission, click here.