Scholarship success: Meet the McDonalds!

It’s no secret that over the past few years, the city of Detroit has fallen on some hard times. Yet despite the challenges facing families, you’ll still find tight-knit communities of hard-working families living along the shores of the Detroit River. The McDonalds are just one example.

David McDonald, who lives in Trenton with his wife Patricia and their four children, has been a Foresters member and independent advisor, as well as a financial planner, for 18 years. During that time, ten exceptionally bright kids in his area have been awarded Foresters Competitive Scholarships – there must be something in the water!

With so many Scholarship winners coming out of the area year after year, I have to ask David: what’s the secret?

In part, he thinks its thanks to a program he developed to teach new sales agents how to better explain the Foresters benefits (such as scholarships) to existing and new members.

But David also believes that in addition to increased awareness, the neighborhood’s demographics – shaped largely by the local automaker industry – is a key contributing factor. “I think that the average blue collar person is generally more active when it comes to volunteering and giving back,” says David.

And Foresters has been proud to give back alongside the community. “Over the years, Foresters has provided a lot of funding to help where it was needed, and people really began to take notice,” says David. “Like me, Foresters seems to understand that you can’t think about giving back in terms of how it can help your business; it’s not a marketing ploy, it’s a way of life.”

This year one of the recipients of the Foresters Competitive Scholarship is David’s son, Michael.

Michael grew up giving back with his family, selling raffle tickets for the school’s athletics program, serving meals at the local homeless shelter and landscaping for seniors who could use some extra help. They’ve also volunteered many times with Foresters by building a playground and cooking dinner for families at the local Ronald McDonald House.

Michael just started his first year studying criminal justice at Schoolcraft College, earning credits towards a degree from Ferris State. His end goal is to become a Michigan State Trooper, and eventually a Federal Agent.

Like many kids, Michael initially thought he might follow in his dad’s footsteps. “Even though I respect what my dad does, when I sat down and really thought about it, I just couldn’t imagine myself doing his job,” Michael says with a laugh.

To explore police work as an alternate career path, Michael joined the Woodhaven Police Explorers program, which gives kids who are interested in law enforcement the opportunity to learn about police work and gain skills used by police officers.

And it seems like Michael is a natural fit. At the end of the Program’s boot camp, he was awarded the infamous drill sergeant ‘black hat’ (a symbol of merit) for spending the week motivating and encouraging his teammates.

“If one person fails, we all fail,” says Michael. “Anytime we’d mess up a drill, our sergeants would make us run. Everyone was at a different physical level, so I would run alongside the kids who were struggling and help push them forward. I just kept doing that the entire week until eventually we were all running as one.”

The Program also carries out a lot of volunteer work, such as donating presents to children through the “Shop with a Cop” Christmas program, which really resonated with Michael’s values.

“Police Explorers showed me a side of police work that isn’t about controlling people,” he says. “It’s a shame that police officers sometimes get a bad rep; I want to be a  police officer who changes perceptions by helping people out and making their day.”

While the Foresters Scholarship has helped him out tremendously in achieving his goal, Michael is determined to pay for school all on his own. To cover the rest of his costs, he works part-time as a security guard at the local mall. His brother has nicknamed him “Paul Blart Mall Cop”.

But all teasing aside, his parents couldn’t be prouder. They’ve even admitted to going to the mall incognito to spy on him and see him in action! Parents can be so un-cool.

Looking for another heart-warming story? Also read: How New Chelsea Elementary students solve a problem

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Jennifer Peckett

Jenn has a background in partner management and content marketing. She loves to tell stories through a variety of mediums including blog articles, videos and media materials. Jenn covers community outreach and personal finance topics. She enjoys putting a personal spin on her articles to help make finance topics relatable – while still educational!