"WORKING YOUR WAY through school is daunting at best and absolutely exhausting at the worst," says Erik Lawrence '02. "Doing so with children at home makes it near impossible—though people do it every day." Lawrence knows this firsthand. That's why he's creating a new endowed scholarship to assist working student parents at Portland State.
Lawrence and his wife, RoseAnne, had two young children when he started college, and a third was born the year he graduated. In addition, both of them worked, which meant they rarely saw each other.
"I made sure I never did homework during family time—so it meant studying while everyone else was still sleeping," he recalls.
Following a seamless transition from Portland Community College to PSU, Lawrence managed to finish his degree in finance and business administration in three years. After graduation he took a job with UBS Financial Services where his career is now flourishing. In 2009 he decided it was time to start giving back.
"I want to be an active, contributing citizen. I'm now seven years out of school, building my career and raising a young family, so I asked myself what I could do best to make a difference."
His answer involved an exceptional commitment to personal transformation.
The boy who "wasn't into competitive sports as a kid" is now a man challenging himself to compete in a series of five triathlons to benefit two causes deeply rooted in his personal experience—working student parents and grieving children. In addition to establishing the Lawrence Family Working Parent Scholarship Fund through the PSU Foundation (where he also serves as a board member), Lawrence is creating an endowment at the Dougy Center in memory of his mother, who died when he was a young boy. "I want to support kids whose life experience has changed their hand," he says. "And I want to give working student parents a hand up."
Lawrence's determination and rigorous physical training are paying off. As of November, he had completed two triathlons and was well on his way toward his goal of raising $50,000 for each of the endowments.
"I have literally e-mailed everyone I know asking them to sponsor me," he admits laughingly. Lawrence set up a Web site to share his vision, track progress, accept donations, and invite others to join him in racing and raising dollars for his twin passions. Most important of all, his children—ages 6, 8 and 12—come to his races and cheer him on, "doing their part to make Dad feel good."
Despite the challenges he faced in getting through college, Lawrence's time at Portland State meant a lot to him. "College was fun!" he smilingly remembers. "I want to go back."
Meanwhile he's making it possible for other student parents to have their turn.
[CAPTION] Erik Lawrence '02, volunteer extraordinaire, is raising money for working student parents at PSU by competing in triathlons with the support of his wife, RoseAnne, and children, Adam, Athena, and Ben.