Always a Volunteer

My father played football at Fulton High, and received a scholarship to play football at Vanderbilt. He declined. He always wanted to be a Volunteer. Before setting foot on the University of Tennessee campus, my father joined the Air Force to serve his country during the Vietnam War. After the war, he officially matriculated to Tennessee, where he met my wonderful mother.

My parents raised us Vols fans. I bled orange and white. My first football games were at Neyland Stadium. I watched Leonard Little wreak havoc on defense, and Peyton Manning thread the needle unlike anyone else I’ve ever seen. Later on, at 17, I swore I was going to be a journalist and “change the world”. A newspaper journalist at that. I excitedly tore into my acceptance letter from UT back in 1999. But the HOPE scholarship and the Grady School of Journalism at the University of Georgia was hard to turn down. I went to UGA, started out in Journalism and Statistic, but eventually changed to Computer Science and Statistics. I still write, but I write in code instead of in prose.

After my second year of college, I had lost my HOPE scholarship, and then took “a semester off”. After a 4-year long ahem “semester”, I knew I needed to get myself together and finish school. My father pushed me to go back, and he is the catalyst that helped me across the finish line.

My father helped myself, my brother, and my sister at critical points in our lives. Even though my degrees from UGA have led to my career in software engineering, I owe my success to my father–and to his education from UT.

One thought on “Always a Volunteer

  1. Hello Rob!

    My name is Alexis Keys, 27-year-old former Director of Development, Education & Community Relations at an Orlando, FL arts nonprofit. There, I managed over 230 volunteers. More recently I have enjoyed volunteering as an English as a Second Language Instructor, the Business Development Intern at my family business, and as Legislative Intern for a Florida State Representative. I am applying to your Samuel E. Wilson Scholarship this month.

    I’ve recently been accepted at five top programs to pursue a Master’s in International Development Policy, namely Georgetown, Johns Hopkins, American and George Washington universities in Washington, D.C. I have elected to attend the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Study (SAIS) in Bologna, Italy. With your support, I will expand the pool of bold leaders in international service careers.

    I appreciate the impact your educational funding opportunities have on bringing culture and education to communities and students in need. I struggled financially during undergrad in beautiful Atlanta at Emory University, but still finished with a 3.5 GPA. I learned to demonstrate academic excellence even in the face of adversity. I wanted to ask if this blog post is in reference to Samuel E. Wilson, if he is your father and also the namesake of this scholarship. I apologize if that is not the case, just hoping to submit the best essay possible honoring Mr. Wilson.

    Thank you, and I look forward to applying!

    Alexis Keys
    Emory University ‘17
    MA Candidate ‘21

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