James Patrick (“JP”) Stewart graduated from Tennessee State University on May 5, 2018. After doing so, he became the first college graduate in his family. Not only did he graduate college, but he did so as a 4-year college athlete in Track. He beat the odds for a kid growing up in generational poverty with a single mom and an incarcerated father. He overcame.
This was a meaningful event for both his PTM and biological family- perhaps for a myriad of different reasons than your typical college graduation. So many of us feel we had a small collective part in that walk to get his diploma.
There has been some discussion around whether JP would have succeeded without PTM support. After all, he is a special kind of young man with goals. We can never know for certain. After reminiscing back through the years, JP’s successful journey to college graduation is proof that it does indeed take a village. PTM was certainly the connector between JP and the many caring adults that poured into him through the years- both staff and volunteers. From spiritual mentoring, academic tutoring, camp, birthday cakes, learning to ride a bike, cards of encouragement, meeting transportation needs, summer job opportunities, examples of Godly men and much more- many have poured into JP during this leg of his earthly journey. For discussions sake, that is a whole heaping amount of resources that he would have had to find on his own if there was not PTM.
JP was easy to help because he did his part as well. He was focused on his goals. He kept his word and was consistent with doing what he said he would do. He recognized when he needed help and he reached out. He gave up fun nights out to study to maintain his grades. He maintained a spirit of gratitude to those who helped him out. He realized that was his part. He said once that something PTM had taught him was that people notice when you work hard.
He has shown that we are all a product of our decisions and not a product of our circumstances.
And we, of course, don’t want to leave out God’s part! He is THE great connector and He has a plan for us all.
Knowing I like to take pictures, JP recently asked if I could take some of him when he got his cap and gown. He said he had some ideas about the pictures. He wanted to take some with his niece, age 4, by a pathway to symbolize that college would be her path, too. My heart melted more than a bit.
Blessings to JP, staff and volunteers who hope to make a difference. You have and you are.
You can be sure to find JP working at PTM this summer paying it forward.