Scholarship helps watermelon boy become music man

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He had no idea how he’d pay for college. But then a letter came one day telling him that he’d won a Thompson Scholarship.

You need to get a job.

That’s what Parker Loghry’s mom told him when he was 10 years old.

He comes from a family of six. His parents’ combined income is around $40,000. Their home in St. Libory, Neb., a town just north of Grand Island, is in “watermelon country.”

So he went to work in those watermelon fields.

Planting. Pruning. Picking.

“And earning a whopping $4.25 an hour at the time,” he said, smiling, as he stood at the podium and told his story to a group of University of Nebraska supporters at a luncheon in Lincoln not long ago.

“I quickly learned to manage my money flow – in and out of my sock drawer. And I understand the worth of each and every one of those dollars. The money I earned really helped me to put into perspective the scholarship assistance that I am given now.”

Parker, who’s going to be a senior at UNK this fall, received a Susan Thompson Buffett Scholarship. It covers all his tuition and books.

It made him part of the Thompson Learning Community at UNK – Thompson Scholars like him who live together in Mantor Hall on campus (boys on one side, girls on the other) and help one another achieve their personal and academic goals. Most, like Parker, are first-generation college students.

It’s like a family away from home, he says.

His sophomore year, he became a mentor for the learning community. He met with 11 Thompson Scholars for a half hour each week and talked with them about their school and personal issues. He learned to communicate, nurture and connect.

“I learned so much about life.”

That mentoring experience, he says, helped him realize the job he wants someday – to be a minister.

Each Thompson Scholar must complete an undergraduate research project. Parker decided to do something he’d dreamed about in those days in the produce fields of St. Libory.

Write music.

Along with his faculty supervisor, Parker completed a 14-track album. His guitar music could often be heard filling Mantor Hall. His Thompson Scholar family members were among his biggest fans. He’d try stuff out for them, seek their advice.

They helped him name his one-man band – PlainFire.

He’s since written a second album. This one has had more than 1,300 downloads worldwide. He’s been featured on a radio station in Hungary. A producer asked to use his music for an NFL online documentary. (To download his music for free, go here.)

“When I received my first scholarship awards, it took my breath away,” he told the group of donors – members of the foundation’s Burnett Society who have made estate plans to leave gifts to the university. “I could try to find words to describe my appreciation, but I would be up here for hours. These gifts, these blessings, have changed my life.

“Without this scholarship, there’s no doubt in my mind that my dream simply never would have come true.

“So with all I have, I say thank you.”

Student support is one of the top priorities of the Campaign for Nebraska. If you would like to help talented students like Parker reach their potential, please give online or contact the University of Nebraska Foundation at 800-432-3216.

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