Becky Nicks' Junior Pioneer Scholarship

Stay tuned for 2024 scholarship information coming soon!

Congratulations to Matthew Free! Matthew is the 2023 Becky Nicks' Junior Pioneer Scholarship winner! Matthew, a Shawnee resident, is a senior at St. James Academy. Matthew is an Eagle Scout as well as actively involved in track, cross country, swim team, and orchestra. We are excited to honor you as this year's Junior Pioneer Scholarship winner! You can see Matthew's essay below.

       My family has an old cedar chest filled with family photos and keepsakes. Many of the photos are from before I was born in the pre-digital age of photography. I find it interesting to look through these photos and hear the stories that accompany the memories. Some of my favorite stories are about my grandfather, who we endearingly called “Papa.” Many of the stories about Papa are funny and highlight the shenanigans and fun of his young adult life, while other stories tell the experiences that helped shape him to be an inspiring and amazing person. Papa is my hero because of his courage, moral integrity, and self-sacrificing service to others. Papa passed away about two years ago, but his influence lives on in shaping the young adult that I am today.

       Papa passed away very unexpectedly, just 6 weeks after my grandmother passed away. They had been married for 46 years. My grandmother suffered from a prolonged illness and Papa was her caregiver for many years. His unconditional love for his wife was a true example of how to love another person with a servant’s heart. My grandmother was in and out of the hospital, and my grandparents’ lives were defined by the limitations of her illness. Papa never complained. He cared for my grandmother with strength and patience. Mother Teresa once said, “Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love.” This makes me think of my Papa. He was so humble and gave a steadfast and reliable love to those around him.

       My Papa is a quintessential example of the American dream. He grew up in poverty. His older sisters did not have a bed to sleep in. Even though he did not have the opportunity to go to college, his dedication, honestly, and work ethic led him to corporate leadership positions. Much of Papa’s success was because he viewed leadership through the lens of service to others. He lived a life of service to others: in his family, in his career, and in his community.

       Papa was a Boy Scout when he was younger. It was his influence that inspired me to continue with Scouts and achieve Eagle Scout rank in August of this past year. Although Papa did not live to see me achieve this honor, he was a part of this achievement because he encouraged and supported me with my involvement in Scouts for so many years. The very heart of my journey to becoming an Eagle Scout is rooted in service to my community and country. Being an Eagle Scout isn’t just an award or a title; it’s about living the values taught in Scouting: being trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. Boy Scouts cultivates the idea that we should leave the world a little better than we found it. Papa made the world better. Papa was a living example of these values, and he is my hero.