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Racing to Your Life Calling

One of my fondest memories as a child was career day in elementary school. On that day, everyone dressed up like the person they wanted to be like when they grew up. I remember one year I wanted to be a NASCAR driver. My mother dressed me up in a race suit and a cardboard box that she managed to make look like a race car. We then had the opportunity to go out to the bus parking lot to meet the people we wanted to be later in life.

When I arrived at Palm Beach Atlantic University (PBA) as a transfer student, I had come a long way from wanting to be a NASCAR driver. I had my sights on becoming a youth pastor. However, I had no idea that was about to change, thanks to some people with a special heart for helping others.

Johnson Scholarship Foundation creators Theodore R. Johnson and his wife, Vivian Chesley Macleod Johnson, recognized the importance of helping people who were less fortunate, and so did PBA’s founders. One of PBA’s longest running traditions is Workship. This term was created by Doris Moody, the wife of PBA’s founding President Dr. Jess Moody. The Moodys believed that students who have been called to PBA were also called to be servant leaders in their community. Doris had combined the words “work” and “worship” because she saw the volunteer work in our community as a form of worship to the Lord. As a faith-based institution, PBA believes that one of God’s commandments is to serve and love others. Students learn how to respond to the needs in the community. Today, as the director of Workship, I have an opportunity to help students use their volunteerism as a way to discover their life-callings.

Johnson Scholar Judson Crawford, Assistant Pastor of The Tabernacle Church Kevin Jones and Workship Director Nathan Chau in 2019.

Johnson Scholar Judson Crawford was one student I had the pleasure of mentoring through the Workship program. He came to West Palm Beach from rural Georgia to study psychology, and the Johnson Scholarship helped make his PBA education possible. He quickly became involved with the Rosemary Village Afterschool Program in partnership with The Tabernacle Church. Through this program, Judson worked with inner-city youth. He helped them with homework and taught them important life lessons. The children who participated looked up to Judson as an older brother. He was the strong and positive male figure that so many of the children were missing in their lives. Judson saw the positive impact that he had with the children. 

As an educational institution, PBA shares the Johnson Scholarship Foundation’s conviction that education is the best means to empower people. Judson’s PBA education in psychology empowered him to empower the families served by the Rosemary Village Afterschool Program. Because of his education, Judson understood why the children acted the way they did, and he communicated more effectively with them and their parents. In 2018, the Newman Civic Fellowship recognized Judson for his work with the Rosemary program, naming him a member of the 2018-2019 cohort. Judson’s volunteer work and psychology studies eventually led him to a career in law enforcement. Graduating in 2019, Judson landed a spot with the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office.

It is stories like Judson’s that inspire me in my work. When I arrived at PBA in 2011, I thought I would be on a church staff after graduation. Instead, I discovered that student ministry could be done as a teacher, mentor, or even working alongside volunteers. I fell in love with PBA and did not want to leave when I graduated in 2013. When the opportunity arose to work with the Workship community service program, I took it! Here I am, over eight years later, loving every moment of what I get to do for the students and my community.

When students step foot on campus, we want them to dream and explore their interests. Our hope is that they discover their life-calling through their experiences and are recognized for their hard work. Judson was one of many Johnson Scholars at PBA who discovered his dream career through his community service.


Nathan Chau is director of Workship at Palm Beach Atlantic University. He graduated from Palm Beach Atlantic with a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication in 2013 and a Master of Science degree in Leadership in 2016.

A Johnson Scholar Comes Full-Circle

After high school, I felt a true calling to attend a private Christian college. But coming from a single-parent home and living in a trailer, it was a stretch for me to be able to afford a school like Palm Beach Atlantic College. (Side note – Palm Beach Atlantic did not receive university status until after I graduated, so all past references refer to PBA College.) Though my mom worked hard for our family and wanted to see me succeed, like many families, we had limited funds available for college tuition. As I attended community college and worked a full time sales job, the dream of finishing my undergraduate degree at a private Christian school slowly started to slip away.

During the fall of 1996, I researched scholarship opportunities and decided that I was going to take the necessary steps to achieve my goal. Over the course of the following months, I applied to Palm Beach Atlantic College, was accepted for the spring semester and prepared to make the big move. The university provided scholarships and helped me through the financial aid process, making it affordable for me to enroll. The largest gift I received that enabled me to start at PBA was from the Ted/Vivian Johnson Foundation Scholarship. (Side note- I wrote Ted/Vivian Johnson Foundation Scholarship because that’s exactly how it is printed on my student account record that I recently pulled to review.) I continued to receive that same gift for the following few semesters.

At PBA, I met faculty members who cared about me and my future, and I met some of the very best friends I still have today. I also met my future wife, Rachel, at PBA, and we have been married now for almost 20 years. I grew spiritually, too. Through lots of prayer and perseverance, I graduated in 1999 with a clear plan for my future career in banking and non-profit fundraising. Fast forward 20 years, and I am now working for PBA as Director of Alumni Relations.

Students are concerned about the affordability of college tuition and student debt. They want to have clear direction and the ability to get a good job after graduation. The Johnson Scholarship Foundation’s gifts help students pursue their dreams, and I believe Palm Beach Atlantic University plays a huge role in shaping their futures. PBA and the Johnson Scholarship Foundation certainly did that for me.


Steve Eshelman is Director of Alumni Relations at Palm Beach Atlantic University