Parents Council Rewards Emerging Student Leaders with Scholarship

May 2020

Seven grateful students selected to receive the Parents Fund Emerging Leader scholarship say the financial boost frees them to spend more time building up others.


The Parents Council selected the students to receive $2,000 for the 2020-21 academic year. They are: Melody Bohannan, a biblical studies major from Rockledge, Florida; Laurelyn Davis, a communication major from Boca Raton, Florida; Liam Devine, a cinema arts major from Jupiter, Florida; Jennifer Elvir, a psychology major from Lake Worth, Florida; Victoria Holmes, a dance pedagogy major from Houlton, Maine; Brandie Reader, an intercultural studies major from Lake City, Florida, and Rachel Smalley, a communication major from Wake Forest, North Carolina.

Attending PBA is a dream come true for Brandie Reader.With a difficult upbringing, school gave Reader something to look forward to, but for a long time, she thought college was out of reach. She visited campus a few times with friend and mentor Sarah Elkins ’16 and fell in love with the idea of going to PBA.

“I always did really well in school because it was something that I loved,” Reader said. “It was a dream to go to PBA, and it’s a dream to be there right now.”

Last semester, Reader worked five jobs. The scholarship frees her to spend more time on campus investing in her leadership roles. She has volunteered for a girls mentoring program in a low-income school in West Palm Beach and is also a peer mentor, helping freshman get organized and adjusted to campus.

Jennifer Elvir has held several leadership roles. She wants to eliminate the stigma around mental health counseling.Elvir, a senior, never saw herself being a leader. Now leadership is a lifestyle because PBA instilled it in her, she said. Elvir has been a presidential ambassador, career peer, peer mentor, Student Orientation Advising and Registration intern, medical missionary, student researcher and student aide to counseling director Jeremy Bonta.

She credited Jennifer Fonseca, assistant director of career development, and Danne Pierre, director of first year/transfer experience and multicultural student programs, for bolstering her courage along the way.

“Being led has shaped me,” Elvir said. “When I see an example of someone who wants me to grow, it helps me see potential in other people.”

She is passionate about breaking the stigma surrounding mental health counseling, especially in the developing world, and wants to provide mental health care to people in under-resourced countries. She hopes to empower other people just as PBA has empowered her, she said.

She’s motivated by her parents, immigrants from Honduras who worked hard to give her opportunities she never imagined.

“Being a first-generation high school graduate and soon being a first-generation college graduate, my overall drive to do more is because of them,” Elvir said. “I want to give them more than they gave me. PBA has given me so many tools to want to do more.”

Liam Devine is passionate about filmmaking and bringing people together.Devine has a passion for filmmaking and bringing people together. He has produced videos for Monday Night Live, PBA’s late night comedy show, and the Steering Committee, which plans Welcome Week and other campus-wide events to help students acclimate. He’s excited to expand on both in the coming year.

“It’s been so awesome to be a part of bringing people together and getting to know each other,” Devine said of the welcoming committee. “At the end of the day, our goal is to make students enjoy their time at PBA, to make it feel like home for them.”

In his courses, he’s worked on film sets and learned how to run them, which led to greater roles such as cinematographer and director. For Workship, he and a friend edited footage of Hurricane Dorian relief efforts in the Bahamas into a video for a local nonprofit.

“I’ve had amazing opportunities to be creative in so many ways while at PBA.”

Devine is thankful for the precious time the scholarship affords him by allowing him to spend fewer hours at work.

“It allows me to be on campus more and stop and talk to people,” Devine said. “I don’t want to be constantly rushing everywhere. I have more time to be present.”

Victoria Holmes has enjoyed helping others develop into leaders.As a fellow returning member of the Steering Committee, Holmes wants to empower others in the same way that Natalie Johnson, director of Student Activities, Involvement and Leadership, and Kristin Knudsen, associate director of SAIL, have developed her, she said.

“They really inspired me to do my best in everything, and whatever task I was assigned, and to be a good steward of what I was given,” Holmes said.

As a resident assistant, Holmes inspired her peers with the impact of faithfulness – hers and God’s. Some of her residents have since become RAs and grown into leadership roles of their own. For example, Holmes passed down leadership of Flourish, a women’s retreat for students and alumni, to one of her former residents.

She views the scholarship as confirmation from the Lord that her service at PBA is blessed, not in a way that proves her worth but in a way that shows she trusts Him.

“It’s an encouragement to continue to serve and find ways to bless others, knowing that the Lord will provide for me,” Holmes said.

Photo 1: The Parents Council selected seven students to receive Emerging Leader scholarships. They are (top row): Melody Bohannan, Laurelyn Davis, Liam Devine, Jennifer Elvir, (bottom row): Victoria Holmes, Brandie Reader and Rachel Smalley.

Photo 2: Attending PBA is a dream come true for Brandie Reader.

Photo 3: Jennifer Elvir has held several leadership roles. She wants to eliminate the stigma around mental health counseling.

Photo 4: Liam Devine is passionate about filmmaking and bringing people together.

Photo 5: Victoria Holmes has enjoyed helping others develop into leaders.

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