Mention Jessica Mowles, and you’ll likely hear these words: Motivated. Good conscience. World traveler. Accomplished.
Her efforts — and character — just earned her the Cabell Brand Center’s Glenna and Jack Burress Scholarship to Promote the Common Good. Cabell Brand noted that this is the first time in the Center’s 25 years of giving scholarships that a Salem native has won the first-place $5000 award.
She will put it to good use at New York University’s Wagner Graduate School of Public Service.
Longtime readers might remember Jessica from a May 2004 column in which she credited Sesame Street’s “Big Bird” with sparking her wanderlust. Helen Williams, now deceased, had suggested granddaughter Jessica as a topic, thanks to her travels and volunteering.
Jessica’s scholarship-application essay tallied some of her efforts since age 15: Tutoring immigrants and low-income Salem students. Graduating from an international high school that focuses on social justice. Mentoring Native American students.
More: Attending Macalester College — and earning awards for work with diverse communities and for demonstrating humanitarian service. Numerous internships, including Total Action against Poverty. Studying and teaching (ballet and English) in South Africa. Innovative work with iMentor in New York City; for this NYU named her 2008’s Emerging Leader in Public Service….
The list goes on! “She has worked two to three jobs throughout school,” said justifiably proud mom Julie Mowles.
Both Julie and Buster, Jessica’s dad, stressed that she has always been self-motivated. Jessica wrote that her family has been very supportive of her educational pursuits, but unable to help with expenses. She’s been financially independent since 18, and feels “extremely privileged to be the first of my father’s family to graduate [from] college.”
And now grad school! Her goal is to make nonprofit- or public service-organizations as effective as possible — a goal she thinks the Brands and Burresses would admire. Dedicated philanthropic businessman Cabell is a longtime hero.
Surely she has proven her “wings” — befitting a motto cross-stitched for her bedroom by Helen before she was born. It’s the one about giving kids both roots and wings — the latter being the hard part.
Jessica travels the globe, but “her Salem roots are not gone!” said Julie. “She always enjoys coming home.”
Each visit reminds Jessica of how kind Salemites have supported her throughout her life. “Salem has shaped me in important ways,” she wrote.
In a chat with Jessica-in-New York, she said she anticipates a Memorial Day camp-out here before heading to a sustainability course in Shanghai (“her first Asian trip,” said Julie).
Buster expressed it all quite simply: “She wants to help out… to be sure that people are treated fairly.”
Surely that fits the late Dr. Charles “Hap” Fisher’s words: “working towards the common good.”
More on the award program:
In helping “young people advance both their education and dedication to public spiritedness,” Cabell Brand said he hopes the Brand Center continues Hap Fisher’s legacy of “giving back to society until his death … last year at 104.”
Rachal M. Crum of Roanoke won the second-place $2000 “Hap” Fisher scholarship towards her studies at Roanoke College.
Hayley C. Field of Salem won a Burress Family $1000 scholarship. At press time she had not announced her chosen school.
CBC President David Crawford joined Cabell in announcing the eighteen winners of scholarships totaling $23,000. Donors include Cabell and Shirley Brand, Hap Fisher, the Burress family, Sheila and Ken Garren, Debby and Harlan Beckley, and Freedom First Credit Union.
The fund also receives proceeds from the sale of Cabell’s book “If Not Me, Then Who?” Jessica wrote that she is conversing with an NYU Dean of Students to supply the inspirational book to all graduate students enrolling in a career-counseling course there.