Jason Powell, NCU DBA Student,
Finds Hope Through Leadership
When faced with a desperate situation, what inspires one person to have hope and another to dive into despair?
Jason Powell answers in two words: strong leadership.
Powell is an NCU Doctor of Business Administration student and winner of the University’s February 2017 Leading in Your Field scholarship. And while he didn’t realize it at the time, the concept of leadership—and its influence on hope—was instilled in him from a very early age by his mother.
The youngest daughter of a respected engineer, Powell's mother lost her own father when she was very young. After a period as a rebellious teenager, she struggled to raise Powell and his brother near Augusta, Georgia. The family lived below the poverty line, and a string of relationships and relocations created one challenging circumstance after another for the boys.
Powell remembers the pain of growing up in humble surroundings and being teased at school for wearing old clothes and shoes. At home, he was burdened with the responsibility of caring for not only himself, but also for his younger brother—and the family’s meager household. He found himself growing up faster than any child should.
“For my brother and me, my mother’s gift of hope went unnoticed for many years due to our apprehensions and childhood naivety. But later, in hard times, her legacy became apparent.”
“During those times, it felt as if we were driving through very dark and terrible storms without headlights,” Powell recalls. “Perseverance, and perhaps divine intervention, kept our progress steady. We always made it through the weather to see daylight pierce the clouds like salvation melting prison bars.”
In high school, Powell worked part-time to pay for summer school, and built a bicycle from junk and spare parts so he could make the nine-mile round trip each day. He packed a change of clothes so he would not be covered in sweat and draw additional negative attention to himself during class. His determination paid off, allowing him to finish high school early and enlist in the U.S. Air Force.
“For my brother and me, my mother’s gift of hope went unnoticed for many years due to our apprehensions and childhood naivety,” says Powell. “But later, in hard times, her legacy became apparent.”
Clarity fell upon Powell during deployment as he sat in an unarmored commercial vehicle staring out a dust-weathered window. Insurgents launched mortar rounds wreaking destruction all around, as the smell of gun smoke lingered thick in the air.
While those who were uninitiated with suffering were ill equipped for tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, Powell and others like him, who had survived through many challenges before, had a different quality.
“Leadership requires that one be worthy of following, and good leaders develop themselves before attempting to develop others. Hard work and study at Northcentral University will empower me to gain new perspectives and create a strong foundation.”
“The visceral realities of war could not similarly torture our minds because we had hope,” he says. “I’ve always related to Napoleon Bonaparte’s quote: ‘A leader is a dealer in hope.’ Despite decisions that created tremendous strife for us, my mother always found strength to lead us through even the most helpless situations.”
Powell recognizes that his childhood environment was a direct consequence of his parents’ inability to think strategically about how to improve their lives. “Now I know that if I want more out of life, I need to make the changes myself,” he says.
Powell’s hope is to carry on the tradition of leadership from his mother, but with a different approach. “Demonstrating one can rise from the lowest level of our socio-economic ladder and reach the highest level of academic achievement is inspirational,” he says.
He has certainly done that—and more. While in the Air Force and supporting the military as a defense contractor in the Middle East afterward, Powell earned three associate degrees, two bachelor’s degrees and two master’s degrees. Winning NCU’s Leading in Your Field scholarship has made it possible for him to continue pursuing his Doctor of Business Administration with a specialization in applied computer science.
“Leadership requires that one be worthy of following, and good leaders develop themselves before attempting to develop others,” Powell says. “Hard work and study at Northcentral University will empower me to gain new perspectives and create a strong foundation."
“When times are difficult, we need to believe that something is possible so that we can remove the internal boundaries that we artificially set for ourselves,” says Powell. “I hope to be fortunate enough to help people who are facing challenging situations to take ownership of their problems and find ways to make their lives better.”