United Yacht’s “Do The Right Thing” Scholarship Program for Kendal Fortson

Thank you for Peter Schmidt and United Yacht Sales for considering my application for the United Yacht’s “Do The Right Thing” scholarship. Please find an image of my enrollment to Western Governor’s University and my essay below:


Marcus Aurelius reminds me that when I have difficulty getting out of bed to work, that I can remind myself that to work, to better the world, is what humans were made to do. To be good at work means to do a task with your full effort, consistently and reliably. My grandmother taught me this most formative lessons growing up in Los Alamos that made me the man I am today. The most impactful way that she has shaped me as a person is by teaching me the importance of keeping my word—to work when one says one will. Keeping my word and being someone people can rely on to do things are both a part of being trustworthy, a value I learned as an Eagle Scout.

Once, as a Boy Scout, I had signed up for two-week canoe trip in the Canada boundary waters. However, as the date of the trip approached, I realized that I was no longer interested in going and wanted to back out. My grandmother forced me to go because keeping my word was more important than my temporary discomfort. If I didn’t go, neither would the other boys because they would be one rower short of a full canoe (which is not an expression, but a literal requirement of the natural park). I reluctantly agreed and endured the hard work of rowing and porting canoes, slapping constant mosquitos, and re-pitching a tent to higher ground when the campsite flooded in the middle of the night.

This experience taught me the importance of being accountable and reliable, even when it’s not easy. As I grew older, I began to understand the significance of the lessons my grandmother had taught me. Keeping my word became a core part of my identity and something that I prided myself on. Now, no longer a child but a man, I have taken the lessons she taught me and applied it to my life when I had to go back in Los Alamos to take care of her just as she took care of me so many years ago.

My grandmother was sick, and she needed to rely on me to help remind her to take her medicine. She needed me to be reliable and drive her to her doctor’s appointments that need to be scheduled months in advance. It was difficult to help a sick family member instead of simply putting them in a home, but in a home, she would not have been given the same level of warmth and love from family she knows. It was difficult to give up going on vacations with friends, but going on these vacations would have meant giving up seeing my grandmother for the last years of her life. It was difficult to see her sick in bed, slowly losing her appetite and her will to exercise or socialize, but one can not just turn their head away from the difficult things in life because they are uncomfortable to look at.

To be a man is to face difficulty: to look it in the eye and find ways to cope with these challenges. Not being there for my grandmother would not have meant my grandmother was not suffering, it just meant I would be living in denial of it and not doing what I can to help. There are people in similar difficult situations all over the world, but we often turn our heads and pretend it does not exist if we don’t see it, like children playing peek-a-boo.

This is why I always help, even when it is easier to do nothing. When there is an opportunity to donate to charity or buy new clothes, I donate. When there is chance to give my time to clean up local parks or spend the time sleeping in on a weekend, I wake up and put on a pair of work gloves.

Our current education system is similarly sick, and I hope with a Master’s Degree in Curriculum Instruction I will be able to resuscitate it, to care for it, and nurture it back to health so that our future generations can thrive. It will not be an easy task—it will be hard work—but I am ready for it. My grandmother ensured I was prepared.