University of Michigan Alumni Association

Paul Maxwell

2014's Alumni Club Scholarship Recipient 


I remember the exact moment when I found out that I had been accepted to the University of Michigan. I was sitting in class taking notes when, in the corner of my screen, a “Congratulations!” popped up. I didn’t believe it. I sat there with the stupidest grin on my face for the remainder of the 80 minute period, in fact the teacher looked at me and started to laugh himself! That moment that I knew I would be a Wolverine was one of the happiest of my life. I chose Michigan not only because it is ranked as one of the top schools in the nation, but also because of the spirit. Coming from Saint Ignatius College prep, I love school pride and school spirit. I attended every home football and basketball game there my senior year, and played Varsity Lacrosse in the spring, so it is no surprise that I love to represent my school. That’s why when I was presented with the opportunity to attended the most spirited school in the country I jumped on it. I even have my football season tickets sitting next to me as I type this, and a M sticker where the letter would be on my keyboard. I wear my Michigan sweatshirt around, and when I get the occasional, “GO BLUE!” from a random pedestrian it makes my heart soar. The fact that I will also get a world class education and access to the largest alumni network in the nation doesn’t hurt my choice in Michigan either. In short, there are countless reasons why I am proud to call myself a Wolverine, and it means the world to me to be able to attend such a wonderful school!

This need based scholarship from the alumni club would mean the world to me. The $2,000 scholarship would allow me to take out less in loans, which would help lift some of the tremendous stress that paying for college is bringing into our lives. My mother is paying for my college education, and as a single mother raising three kids on a teacher salary it hasn’t been easy the past few months. I am taking out loans and working everyday to try and pay for as much as I can, but the financial stress and strain on our family is huge. I have secured a job in the Michigan Union for this fall, but the burden of out-of-state tuition is still a heavy one. I would be extremely grateful to earn this scholarship, not only to support my education in the Engineering school, but to help ease the burden on my mothers shoulders. Thank you for your c!onsideration!

Copy of Personal Statement:

We approached the private jet in an air conditioned sedan. As a twelve-year-old boy, I had never conceived of such luxury. The plane was owned by my best friend from middle school. He had invited me to his second home in Idaho for a few weeks in the summer, and I was eager to take him up on the offer. But now, seeing this plane before me – this ostentatious display of wealth – I felt disarmed.

Growing up the son of a public school teacher in an affluent area came with many perks, but was often accompanied by a feeling of inadequacy. This experience continued throughout my high school years as I watched my peers get new iPhones, cars and sports gear. Although my mother always said that I could accomplish anything I set my mind too and that I didn’t need money to get there, a nagging voice in the back of my head told me otherwise.

This concept was challenged during a freshman year service trip to La Mission, Mexico. While there, I worked in an orphanage, taught in a day care center, and brought care packages to those struggling in the town. My experience doing this work transformed my perspective on how wealth relates to happiness. Despite the extraordinary poverty there, I found generosity and kindness at every turn. The women at the daycare laughed with each other while ensuring that each child had a full belly, the children treated each other kindly–never leaving anyone out.

This tenderness was juxtaposed against a back drop of cement block houses and blue tarp roofs. It dawned on me that my childhood had sold me a false definition of need. When I played soccer with the local children, there was no difference in my joy and theirs. As we sprinted up and down the empty lot, caked in dirt and sweat, we did not think about wealth. We were happy, and not because we had a private jet.

Over the course of the trip, the idea that happiness was connected to wealth began to evaporate. I realized that happiness had much more to do with one’s interpersonal relationships than one’s material possessions. My mother had been right all along: Wealth was irrelevant, a red herring.

This new idea challenged my whole ideology and prompted me to act. Upon my return to the Bay Area, I saw the world in a new light. I realized that the things I need are actually very basic: food, shelter and family. From a young age I had been conditioned to believe that financial wealth was the most desirable thing to attain. If only I could roll up to my private jet in an air-conditioned sedan. But that is all just clutter.

Sometime after, I was outside my economics class, talking to my friend, when a boy I knew jumped in the conversation. We had been talking about the government shutdown and which Americans it would affect. He said something about how he was the 1% and that I was the 99%, his face twisting with laughter. But he couldn’t phase me. His insult only added to my strength because I knew that I was not defined by my family’s material wealth.