Paying it forward: Student names emergency fund for mentorsby Ashley Morris
A mother can only hope and pray her son meets the sort of mentors senior Tom Cocke did during his freshman year at Coastal Carolina University.
When Cocke’s mother died suddenly this past March, two CCU staff members paid for his plane ticket home and later drove to King George, Va., to attend the funeral. These gestures, along with many other supportive acts of mentorship that helped make his college career a successs, led Cocke to establish the Travis E. Overton & Jake M. Rosiek Student Benevolent Fund.
The fund will provide up to $500 for part-time or full-time students who have emergency needs.
Cocke met Overton and Rosiek through his First-Year Experience course as a freshman in 2007. Overton is director of Student Conduct and Off Campus Student Services. Rosiek is coordinator of the University’s Intramurals program.
“There are two things I wanted to accomplish before graduating here,” says Cocke. “I wanted to give Jake and Travis recognition because they really helped me, and I wanted to aid students who find themselves in situations like I did – I didn’t even have money for a plane ticket home when I found out my mom died.”
Cocke established the fund with a $5,000 donation. He hopes others will be encouraged to contribute.
Cocke’s mother, Ann T. Cocke, was a principal and supervisor of curriculum in the King George, Va., school district. Described as generous and vibrant, she touched hundreds of students’ lives in the nearly 30 years she worked, supervised, taught and coached basketball.
Her family, though, had a history of heart problems. Cocke’s grandmother had just passed away three months prior to March 27, the day his mother hadn’t felt well, laid down and never woke up. Rosiek was the first person Cocke called after he received the phone call from his father.
Rosiek and Overton paid for Cocke’s plane ticket home, came over to his apartment to comfort him, then drove the long trip to Virginia for the funeral. “Anytime I was in trouble, I would call my parents, but here I didn’t know who to call,” says Cocke.
His relationship with the two CCU administrators began in the First-Year Experience class and continued to develop. “All of the right things were already in place with Tom – there was that spark,” says Rosiek. “He was a front-row student. There was a maturity about him – a lot of global thoughts and mindset.”
As a freshman, Cocke was still on a rush from his illustrious, all-star high school career, a whirlwind of juggling six sports (football, baseball, soccer, baseball, track and lacrosse), playing drums for the marching band (he’d strap his drums on over his football pads at halftime), and leading his marketing club's fundraising drive.
His high school euphoria wore off quickly when he got to campus, however, and Cocke admits he wanted to just retreat and be a “Joe Shmoe” for a change. “I spent a lot of time decking out my dorm room with a pool table and a loft my dad and I built,” says Cocke, “I started skipping class. One morning, I decided just to sleep in.”
That’s the morning Cocke heard a knock on his dorm room door. “It was Travis, checking on me to make sure I was OK,” says Cocke. “Then he said, ‘I expected more from you.’ That just cooked and cooked in me.”
It was the jolt Cocke needed to get back on track. Now he visits Overton’s office two to three times a week and has dinner with him often. “He’s helped me register for classes, work out business calculus problems on the chalkboard, and he pointed out a lot of things that have helped me discover more about myself – like the fact that I can step back, be quiet and really listen to everyone,” says Cocke.
Overton, says Cocke, tends to mentor his emotional growth, while Rosiek mentors his career skill set and goals. His experience as a high school athlete has made him an excellent sports official on the college intramural level. He works as an intramural coordinator with Rosiek and travels to officiate national flag football tournaments and basketball regionals. Cocke will graduate in December with a bachelor’s degree in recreation and sports management.
“For Tom to do what he’s done, to name a student fund after me, is the peak of my professional and personal career,” says Rosiek. “I can’t even describe in words how humbled and inspired I am by that decision.”