Scholar Spotlight: Jacob Mosley

This story first appeared in the Summer 2013 WGA Evans Scholars Magazine. View the original story.

Things started to fall apart when Jacob Mosley was 13 years old.

His mother was laid off when the company she worked for closed its doors. A single mom with five children to raise, Michelle Murphy quickly fell behind on paying the bills. Soon, the family was being evicted from their apartment in the Hunters Ridge complex in Farmington Hills, Mich.

“These men knocked on our door and took all our belongings and threw them out on the street,” Jacob recalls. “My mom was crying. I couldn’t believe it came to this.”

It was a moment he would never forget. He grabbed a camera and began taking pictures of the chaotic scene unfolding in front of them, as his mom looked on in stunned disbelief. Had her son gone crazy? “Jacob, why are you taking pictures?” she demanded.

“I want to remember this,” he told her. “So we never have to be in this situation again.”

During times of adversity, the obstacles he and his family have faced have only pushed Jacob to persevere, and he learned quickly that when things don’t work out the first time — such as when he began caddying or was originally turned down for the Evans Scholarship — to never abandon hope because another opportunity may arise.

“Anything is possible,” says Jacob, who is studying marketing. “There are times I thought, ‘No way I’m going to get it.’ But it is possible, it is dreamable. I thank God every day for this gift. It is a huge blessing.”

From an early age, Jacob loved to earn money. It wasn’t just for sake of accumulation — he wanted to help provide for his family. With an absent father, he was the oldest child and first son, and he took that role seriously. “He wanted to be the man of the house,” his mom, Michelle, says. “He knew that was what men do; they take care of their families.”

Jacob showed business sense early, charging neighbors $2 to clean and vacuum their cars when he was 8 years old. At his brother’s sporting events, he sold pre-bought water bottles at cheaper prices than were being offered at the concession stand. And whatever money he made, he gave selflessly to his family. “If his brother wanted to participate in a tournament, Jacob would always say, ‘Let’s go half on it,” Michelle says. “I’d leave the house and he’d say, ‘Mom, you got the money?’ He’d tell me to take his wallet. He was 8.”

But Jacob dreamed bigger, telling his mom that one day, he’d be able to buy her pretty dresses and a larger house.

In seventh grade, he learned about caddying and the Evans Scholarship from his grandma’s neighbor. He knew it could be a game-changer. From that point on, earning the Scholarship became his life goal. He signed up to caddie at Oakland Hills. But things didn’t go exactly as planned.

“I was really scared I was going to lose a club or head cover,” he says of his first time on the golf course. Nerves prevented him from being a great caddie that first summer.

But he didn’t give up. For two years, Jacob kept the caddie manual in his back pocket, reading and re-reading every word. “I realized if I kept trying, I’d get better,” he says. “I wanted to make sure I was the best caddie out there, working as hard as I could.”

He eventually arrived at Pine Lake Country Club. The people were friendly, he felt comfortable, and he became a top caddie. He had found his fit on the golf course.

In his family life, things weren’t as stable. After they were evicted from their apartment, the family stayed in a homeless shelter in Pontiac for nearly two years.

It was a stressful, chaotic period. “When people ask where you live, you don’t want to tell the truth,” Jacob says. “It’s embarrassing. It was becoming a very difficult situation.”

Then, a bright spot: The family found a new apartment in Spring Valley. But when they were deemed to be over-capacity for a two-bedroom apartment, they were forced again to leave. Homeless since, the family has been staying at hotels or with friends.  During that period, Michelle has continued her job search and worked to pursue both a bachelor’s and master’s degree.

Though the family is resilient, the stress has had an impact. “I remember getting back to a hotel room and we couldn’t get in the door because sometimes the rent hadn’t been paid and it was locked,” Jacob says. “It’s been a constant worry where you’re going to live. It overtakes your mind.”

His grades at St. Mary’s Preparatory High School in Orchard Lake began to suffer. But he excelled as a leader, earning “Senior of the Year” honors and “Most Valued Hurdler” in track. He volunteered at church and for a football organization, tutored young children and mentored teens.

And people he met were always struck by his charisma and charm. “His witticism and sense of humor will endear him to you upon your first meeting,” wrote school headmaster James Glowacki in a recommendation letter. “His intellectual attitude, his lust for learning and his maturity are without question at the highest level I have ever witnessed for a young man.” Jacob applied for the Evans Scholarship his senior year but was turned down, in part because of grades. He was crushed — and disappointed in himself. “I felt like I could’ve done better,” he says.

But the rejection only fueled his motivation. He decided to attend Michigan State for one year with grants and loans. Then he found out he could re-apply for the Evans Scholarship. His first semester in college, his only priority was earning good grades. Sometimes, while walking on campus, he would see the Evans Scholarship House on Grand River Avenue. He’d pause, telling himself, “I’ll do whatever it takes to keep this dream alive.”

Once, after a particularly difficult day, he called his mom to vent. “He was moping, ‘College is so hard, I can’t do this, blah, blah, blah,’” Michelle recalls. “I let him finish and then said, ‘Get off my phone.’ He’s like, ‘What?’ I said, ‘After all we’ve been through. You have watched me struggle and achieve my bachelor’s and master’s degree while we were homeless. And now you’re sitting here moping about a few classes. You get some help and call me back.’”

She hung up on him. The next day, he called back. “Sorry, mom,” he said sheepishly. “I forgot who I was talking to.”

Jacob finished his first semester with a 3.6 GPA and re-applied for the Evans Scholarship. His selection meeting was held in March. “I took a deep breath to calm myself,” he says. “It’s in God’s plan.”

Several days later, while checking his scholarship award status online, he noticed it had changed. “I started crying in the middle of class,” he recalls. He texted his mom: “I’m a blessed man today.” She wrote back, unaware of what happened: “You’re a blessed man every day.”

Later that day, at the post office, she saw a big envelope from the Evans Scholars Foundation. “I started screaming and crying,” Michelle says. “I called Jacob: ‘You got the scholarship!’ He said, ‘That’s why I told you I was blessed!’”

For Jacob, the Scholarship means he’ll help ease his mom’s burden. “She doesn’t have to worry about me,” he says. “I’ve worked toward this all my life. I promised her I was going to get a good job one day and help us get out of this situation.”

Michelle feels confident things will fall into place this year. She’d love a career in government, working to help change policies and procedures around homelessness. As for Jacob, who also has been inspired to help the homeless, he views his challenges as valuable lessons. “I’m stronger and more cognizant of things I used to take for granted,” he says. “Everyone should be entitled to a home, shelter and food.”

Michelle attributes her son’s success to his spirit of resilience. “My kids do not back down. They are not afraid of ‘no,’” she says. “Jacob comes through. I tell him, ‘If I were a betting man, and you were my horse, I’d bet on you every time.’ He’s a man of integrity and very deserving of this scholarship. I am overwhelmed with joy in my heart for my son. I don’t see anything but success in his future.”