FOREST CITY, N.C. (WNCN) — Senior year of high school can be overwhelming for students as they climb the mountain of college applications and final exams. But Parker Jackson’s trek towards graduation is hardly as grueling as the other summit he’s working to conquer.
The 18-year-old is fighting pancreatic neuroendocrine cancer. But he’s not alone. Parker’s older brother Preston was diagnosed with the same cancer just six weeks after he was, and his father is fighting the genetic cancer, too.
“My fear as a mom – is it going to get bigger or is it going to spread? Are they going to have long, productive lives? My wish is that they do. And they will,” Parker and Preston’s mom, Sharon Sechriest, said.
You can imagine what the family is facing in medical bills. So, Parker knew college tuition was on him.
“Parker had been worried sick about how he was going to pay for it,” the mother said.
But Friday afternoon, inside the library at Chase High School, that burden was lifted off Parker’s shoulders.
Wingate University had already accepted Parker for the upcoming fall semester. But then they saw Parker featured on WBTV as one of #MollysKIds. Gabe Hollingsworth, Director of Admissions at Wingate University, said they had to do more.
“It’s not every day that you find a family that’s in such a difficult situation with a couple of family members at the same time,” Hollingsworth said.
Parker was shocked to walk in and see Hollingsworth surrounded by his friends and family. The announcement that followed quickly overwhelmed him.
“We’re here today to honor your high academic achievement and your strength of character, and we hope to remove any barriers in front of you and achieving your goals. And I’m honored to present to you today a full scholarship,” Hollingsworth told Parker.
“I was speechless. It was very overwhelming, but in a good way,” Parker said.
Wingate granted Parker four years of tuition totaling nearly $150,000.
“When I saw his reaction he kind of caught me off guard, too, and I had to choke back a few tears. But yeah, it’s why we do what we do,” Hollingsworth told WBTV.
The battle Parker and his brother are facing is far from over. But while there may be a dollar amount of the gift he was given Friday, the feeling of relief is priceless.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about paying for college and what I was going to do, and to have that lifted off of me means more than I could ever put into words,” he said.
In June, all three will be traveling to M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, for extensive testing and treating. Before they leave, the Rutherfordton Women’s League and The Forest City Owls are hosting a “Team Jackson” game fundraiser to help with expenses on June 16, in downtown Forest City.