Max O'Connor, once a homeless high school student with big dreams, was able to come to Michigan State University with the help of scholarship support.

Max O’Connor grew up in St. Louis, Missouri. Raised by a single mom and his older sister, he grew up knowing what it meant for a family to live paycheck to paycheck. After several years of struggling to make ends meet, the family ended up becoming homeless for nine months. Max was just fifteen at the time.

Max got a work permit so that he could get a job to help support his family after school. He would walk two miles each way to get to his work. On that walk he had a lot of time to ponder his future. He knew that he wanted something better for himself.

Max set the ambitious goal of obtaining a college degree so that he could work in the automotive engineering industry. He chose to attend Michigan State University because he knew of the ties the school has with automotive companies in Detroit, and felt that he would be well positioned to start his career after graduating as a Spartan. Max could not be told that he couldn’t achieve his dream, or that the road he chose would be too difficult. He later said, “it was the best thing for me, therefore it was what I was going to do.”

It wasn’t an easy road. His expected family contribution was $0. He had to come up with every dime to pay for his education on his own. He was disenrolled multiple times in his first two years due to inability to pay his tuition. He had to miss class on occassion to visit with staff in the Office of Financial Aid to work out how he would pay for school.

“I really had to stick with my goal and understand that this was where I wanted to be and this was what I was going to fight for, no matter what happened,” Max said. In the end, scholarships helped him to stay in school, and he will graduate next year with a degree in mechanical engineering.

As a student, Max has now had several internships with tier-one automotive suppliers. He’s gone from being homeless to taking a private jet to corporate meetings. He is well on the road to building a successful career. 

He’s also worked to be an active member of the Spartan community, serving as a resident assistant and a mentor to younger students on campus. He is eagerly looking forward to his future when he can be on the other side of the scholarship, able to donate to scholarships to support other hopeful Spartans who just want the opportunity, as he had, to prove themselves.

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