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Regalia of Resilience: PBA Grad Reflects on the Power of Education

Palm Beach Atlantic grad Niang Thang smiles for the camera. She has dark long hair and is wearing an ivory blouse.This article was originally published by our grantee partner, Palm Beach Atlantic University. It is shared here with permission.

Palm Beach Atlantic University (PBA) graduate and Fulbright recipient Niang Thang ‘24 knows a thing or two about the importance of education—though she didn’t always believe in it. Over the past seven years, she’s seen how higher education, mentorship, and the transformative power of belief can help someone move from feeling stuck to living out their dreams.

Niang Thang lives with her parents, who are immigrants from Myanmar, in West Palm Beach. One day during her sophomore year at Somerset Academy Canyons, she dropped out.

“I was going through mental health issues, and I didn’t get my high school diploma or GED,” she said.

Thang’s parents went into panic mode, unsure of how to respond to their only child’s decision to leave school. Their solution? Pray.

“They loved and cared for me; they wanted to do what was best,” she shared. “They turned to God—they said, ‘We don’t know what to do, so the only thing we can do is trust [Him] and His will.’”

Finding Academic Renewal at PBA

A couple of years later, Niang Thang was ready for something more.

“Something sparked in me,” she reflected. “I didn’t want to continue living like that. I wanted to build a future for myself. When I turned 18, I wanted to go to school again.”

She heard about PBA from her friend’s sister, who attended the university. Though Niang Thang was reluctant to apply because of her academic standing, her friend encouraged her.

A month later, Thang received her acceptance letter.

“I was shocked, to say the least,” she recalled with a laugh. “I told my parents and they said, ‘This is God’s miracle. Despite not having a GED or diploma, you were meant to be at PBA.’”

Thang entered PBA as a freshman in fall 2020 and earned her GED a few months later, all while navigating college life during the COVID-19 pandemic. The second-generation college student says her past experiences of learning how to manage her mental health helped her thrive during the pandemic.

Thang also credits her success to PBA’s supportive community. She was particularly moved by the genuine care that faculty and staff demonstrated—especially as she entered PBA with an undeclared major.

“When I was trying to choose, I met with my career mentor, Jennifer Fonseca,” she said. “She guided me and helped me figure out my major. She had a willingness to help me.”

After diligently researching and identifying programs that best mirrored her passions and goals, Thang chose to study psychology and pursue a chemistry minor. She was also accepted into the Frederick M. Supper Honors Program.

Now, she’s the Class of 2024 Outstanding Graduate of the psychology department.

“I came into PBA as one person, now I’m graduating as another,” Thang said. “PBA had a big role in transforming me. I started with nothing—not even a high school diploma or GED—but I felt like I had such potential and big dreams.”

Thang added that she could focus on her academic and career goals thanks to the scholarships she received, including the 2024 Women of Distinction Scholarship, which gives funds to female students who excel in academics, service, and leadership, and the Johnson Scholarshipwhich is distributed to PBA students with demonstrated financial need.

“They made it easier [for me] to go to school,” she said. “My peers are worried about how to pay for school, or they’re in debt. I don’t have to feel burdened because I don’t have to work and sacrifice my grades. The scholarships saved me and my parents from that financial burden. I am honored to have been chosen.”

In addition to easing the financial pressures, the scholarships enabled Thang to get back into a full-time academic routine—which, in turn, helped spark conversations with her parents about her hopes and dreams.

“We started talking about my future and my passions,” she shared. “They were very open-minded. I would have thought that they wanted me to go into pre-med! But I was comfortable talking with them.”

Looking Ahead: Fulbright and Future Goal

This summer, Thang will embark on a year-long English teaching assistantship to Taiwan under the prestigious Fulbright U.S. Student Program. Though she wasn’t initially planning to apply, a professor urged her to consider it, and she took a leap of faith. Guided by Dr. Carl Miller, associate professor of English and PBA faculty coordinator for the Rhodes and Fulbright scholarships, Thang prepared her application last semester while also applying to graduate programs.

Last month, she learned that she received the Fulbright.

“Tears started flowing; I was in utter shock. I couldn’t believe it,” Thang said, adding that these moments remind her to believe in herself. “I had dropped out, I had these mental health struggles. People would think I was a failure with no future—but there was something in me that said I knew better.”

After her teaching assistantship, Thang wants to continue her education and become a clinical psychologist.

“No matter what, I can do and achieve much more,” she reflected. “PBA is something special—I’ve never encountered people like this. These professors are investing in our lives, and their belief in me [reminded me] that I can thrive. I don’t think I would have done as well as I did if I attended another school.”

 

Palm Beach Atlantic University is a core grantee partner of JSF. At the bequest of its founders, the
Foundation distributes $1.2 million to PBA each year. The funds provide scholarships to qualified students who wish to pursue higher education but cannot otherwise afford to do so.

Johnson Scholars Foundation Grants $50,000 to Palm Beach Atlantic University

This article was originally published by our grantee partner, Palm Beach Atlantic University. It is shared here with permission.

JSF's CEO Bobby Krause, former CFO Dick Krause, and PBA's President Dr. Debra Schwinn post for a photo while holding a check.Palm Beach Atlantic University (PBA) has received a generous $50,000 grant from the Johnson Scholars Foundation (JSF). The one-time grant is in celebration of Richard A. Krause, who retired as the Foundation’s chief financial officer. Krause, who is also a trustee at PBA, selected the gift to be made in his honor to benefit the university’s Bebe Warren Scholars Program, which supports students pursuing a degree in elementary education. 

 “I am happy to make this donation to PBA’s Bebe Warren Scholars Program as I step into retirement. Don Warren got me started with the Johnson Scholarship Foundation by inviting me to have lunch with him and Theodore R. Johnson, Sr. in 1990,” said Richard Krause, Johnson Scholars Foundation director emeritus and former CFO. “The university has demonstrated its unwavering commitment to educating the next generation of leaders–something that JSF also deeply supports.”

 The announcement was made at The Breakers Palm Beach during a reception hosted by the Foundation on Friday, December 1, 2023, to honor Krause.

 “We are so grateful to the Johnson Scholarship Foundation for this generous gift,” said PBA President Dr. Debra Schwinn, who attended the reception. “Dick Krause exudes integrity and his commitment to education and service is inspiring. Many of our students are deeply in need—some work two or three jobs, and many of them are first-generation students. This support will help us equip more aspiring teachers who will invest in the next generation of scholars.”

 Palm Beach Atlantic University and the Johnson Scholarship Foundation (JSF) share a longstanding history. Theodore R. Johnson and his wife, Vivian Chesley Macleod Johnson, became supporters of PBA after Founding Chairman Dr. Donald E. Warren introduced them to the university in 1982.

The JSF is PBA’s largest scholarship supporter, providing scholarships to qualified students who wish to pursue higher education but cannot otherwise afford to do so. The impact of the Johnson Scholarship Foundation is profound, with over 6,000 more than 6,000 students representing dozens of countries, states and academic programs receiving Johnson Scholarships. These students are known on PBA’s campus as “Johnson Scholars.”

“The Foundation is thrilled to distribute this gift to PBA,” said Robert A. Krause, the Foundation’s CEO and the son of Richard A. Krause. “We share the university’s values of free enterprise, leadership, perseverance and social responsibility and believe that investing in education is the best means to empower people to get better jobs, become more independent and participate more fully in our society.”

 Richard A. Krause joined the Johnson Scholarship Foundation at its inception in 1991 as a trustee and treasurer. In 2015—at age 75—he retired as a board member and treasurer. He then served as their chief financial officer, overseeing the organization’s accounting, finance, banking and investment activities through July 2023.

 Before working with the Foundation, Krause served as treasurer and chief financial officer for Rinker Materials Corporation and Gee and Jenson Engineers-Architects-Planners. In addition to his work at PBA and the Johnson Foundation, he is a director at the Marshall E. Rinker, Sr. Foundation and is actively involved with First Baptist Church in Wauchula, Florida, where he lives. He has six married children, 21 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.

 The Bebe Warren Scholars Program is named after the late Bebe Warren, a retired educator and wife of the late Dr. Donald E. Warren. He established the scholarship in 2001 in partnership with the Johnson Scholarship Foundation.

 To learn more about Palm Beach Atlantic University, click here.

Outstanding Nursing Graduate Centers Career on Service

Karla Cantero-Garcia smiles with her grandmother. She is wearing a grey top and her grandma is wearing a yellow top.

Cantero-Garcia smiles for a photo with her grandmother.

Recent Palm Beach Atlantic University (PBA) graduate and Johnson Scholar Karla Cantero-Garcia believes she was made to serve others. After finishing high school and earning her associate’s degree through dual enrollment, she began attending PBA in 2020.

In addition to the nursing program, the Brooksville, Fla. native was drawn to PBA’s community. It was the only university that allowed her to pursue nursing while playing beach volleyball.

“Nursing is so important,” she reflected. “I think about the second commandment—to love others as you love yourself.” 

But the decision to pursue a career in nursing came from hardship. In 2019, Cantero-Garcia’s sister lost her baby during labor.

“It was really hard to go through as a family,” she said. “I have never seen someone bounce back like my sister. I knew at that moment that I wanted to be an obstetrics nurse.”

Cantero-Garcia learned about the Johnson Scholarship last year while seeking financial aid.

“I asked for help, and it fell into my lap,” she said. “College is not cheap. You already have the stresses of nursing school, so to have the finances [taken care of] reminds me how faithful the Lord is. For JSF to do that financially—while I couldnt do it on my own—means the world to me.” 

Earlier this year, Cantero-Garcia received a phone call from one of her professors, who shared more good news.

“The phone call came at a perfect time,” she said. “I was going through the loss of my grandma. We’d always talked about my graduation. She was my number-one supporter.”

During the call, Cantero-Garcia learned that she’d been elected as the 2023 outstanding graduate in the School of Nursing. 

“My heart was filled with joy—I couldnt stop smiling,” she said. “When Dr. Jane Wilson said that the faculty [chose] me by name, it was great to know my hard work was paying off.”

Cantero-Garcia credits her faith and family for her success.

My parents have always been proud of me,” she shared. “Coming from a Hispanic household, the drive was to always ‘do’. My mom would always say in Spanish, ‘Do everything as if it were for the glory of God.’ It was ingrained into my being.”

And ‘do’ she does. Cantero-Garcia has already started the master of science in nursing program at PBA. She said she’s looking forward to getting her foot in the door at a nearby hospital—or going back to school for her doctorate in nursing someday.

“Looking back, I didnt feel as if those tears or headaches from staring at a computer screen for so long would amount to something—and it did.”

Important Tips to Landing an Internship: How to Outshine the Competition

You know you are unique. You know you are qualified. And, you also know you need an internship! But how can you set yourself apart from the thousands of other college students who are also applying for summer and fall internships? Below are some tips to help you as you prepare for interviewing.

Know Thyself
The first thing I suggest students do is think about three things they want to make sure the interviewer knows about them before the interview concludes. These might be personal traits, or perhaps an accomplishment. This could be something like they ran a marathon. While not related to a professional internship, running demonstrates transferable skills like dedication, commitment, and perseverance—all qualities employers are looking for, and not something many candidates have probably ever done. Identifying in advance what you want the interviewer to know about you not only helps you feel more in control of the interview, it also allows you to showcase what makes you distinct from other candidates.

Know The Company, The Position, The Interviewers
This is something many students forget to do, but it is vital to outshining the competition. With what is widely available on the internet there is no reason why a student can’t find valuable information to demonstrate their knowledge of the company and industry. I strongly recommend students not only familiarize themselves with the organization’s website (mission, culture, clients), but also source news articles, both in favor and opposition of the company. Additionally, find reviews by employees or even potential interview questions on sites like Indeed or Glassdoor. Lastly, Linkedin is a great site to look up information about both the company and employees who have LI profiles. One recent candidate learned through LI that one of her interviewers enjoyed dancing as a hobby, so she made sure to mention that in her interview. That may just have been the thing that got her to the second round!

Practice, Practice, Practice
The research actually suggests a minimum of five mock interviews to sufficiently prepare a candidate. The STAR Interview Method is what we use in our mock interview sessions. STAR is an acronym for Situation, Task, Action, and Result. Skilled interviewers ask behavioral based questions which ask a candidate about past experiences to determine future performance. These types of questions generally begin with “Tell me about a time when,” or “Describe a time that you. . . .” The STAR Method helps students to brainstorm in advance the answers to these types of questions, while allowing them to provide succinct and specific examples that show tangible results. Using the marathon example, one could identify several behavioral based questions that the marathon could be an answer to, such as: “Tell me about a time you overcame an obstacle?” “What would you say are some of your strengths?” Or “Describe a time when you had to manage your time well.” Once the questions are identified, writing out one’s STAR answers will help them shine like a star in the interview.

While many individuals are nervous before and during an interview, following these three tips will help one to feel more confident and prepared. You may not be the only star in the room, you just need to shine more brightly than the others; these tips will help you do just that!

Bonus tips: If interviewing over video, create a nice backdrop/background. If the video interview is recorded make sure to smile and respond enthusiastically. Watching monotone recorded videos is sure to put the reviewer to sleep, so display controlled enthusiasm.


Jennifer Fonseca, M.Ed., is Assistant Director of Career Development at Palm Beach Atlantic University, a core grantee partner of the Johnson Scholarship Foundation.

 

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