Making College Count
John McDermott, BBA ’20, an accounting major and scholarship recipient from Cleveland’s west side, is the first in his family to continue his education beyond middle school.
Though his family did not emphasize schooling, he realized the value of an education because of positive childhood role models and high school teachers. With their help, close friends and his own self-direction, he completed high school while working two jobs, running on the cross country team and participating in Key Club, Rotary and more.
Just before he graduated from high school, mentors through College Now, an organization that helps students in Greater Cleveland succeed in postsecondary education, assisted him as he applied to and began college.
“Students from backgrounds like mine are not supposed to make it to college,” McDermott says. “Some say we are forever bound to the environment we grew up in.”
With no financial support from his family, he decided to attend Kent State and received 16 different scholarships from community organizations and the university. He was driven not only to earn his degree but to maximize his collegiate career by taking advantage of the opportunities available to him.
McDermott completed eight internships while staying involved on campus, serving as president of Delta Sigma Pi, a professional business fraternity that operates the Deltasig concession stand in the business building. He also studied abroad in Prague and volunteered in the community at Habitat for Humanity, the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank and other local nonprofit organizations.
"You have to be willing to apply yourself, ask for help and accept assistance.”
“A college degree is certainly within reach for students who have the drive to make something great out of their lives,” he says. “You have to be willing to apply yourself,
ask for help and accept assistance. It takes a tremendous amount of hard work, determination and grit to rewrite your educational trajectory.”
His academic studies and extracurricular activities have earned him awards, including Kent State’s Alumni Association Senior Leadership Award for Spring 2020 for “breadth and depth of leadership beyond the classroom” and the Arden L. Allyn Cup for the academic year 2019-20, presented to “an outstanding senior in the College of Business Administration who has demonstrated superior leadership and scholastic performance.”
McDermott, who fulfilled his childhood dream of completing a college degree in May, is working at a summer accounting internship at a “Big Four” accounting firm in Cleveland before entering graduate school in the fall.
“If I hadn’t received scholarships, I would have had to take out more loans and bear the mental stress of having a substantial amount of debt hanging over my head,” he says. “Scholarships provided essential funding when I had nowhere else to turn and allowed me to devote more time to school and extracurriculars. Scholarships truly change the lives of students like me.”—Julie Miller, BS ’87