‘He made me feel like we were supposed to meet and that there was a path for me’
In Spring 2019 Jenna Gilbreath, ’23, was an incoming communication studies student, unsure and nervous about what her new life at Kent State University would look like. During an incoming student visit day, one person and one conversation reassured her that she was on the right path. That person was Michael John Gallagher II, '19.
“I had no idea if I had made the right decision and what my new life was going to look like. … I was eating lunch with my mom, and a student sat down with us. It was Michael,” Jenna recalled. “He put my mind to rest when I found out he was a global communication studies student — exactly what I planned on doing. … It was his senior year, and post-graduation, he planned on going into the Peace Corps, which is again what I planned on doing. He told me all about his experience on campus and all the great professors he has had in the college.”
Jenna and Michael wouldn’t cross paths as Kent State students, as Michael graduated magna cum laude later that spring, around the same time Jenna was graduating high school. After thriving as a leader, ambassador, mentor and humanitarian at Kent, Michael went on to pursue his dream of joining the Peace Corps where he was dedicated to teaching English to French-speaking children at CEG Yebessi in Benin, West Africa. But in 2020, just two days after his 24th birthday, Michael’s life tragically came to an end. During his short time on earth, Michael was able to leave a legacy and positive impact on so many people, including Kent State students just like Jenna.
After his death, friends and family established the Michael John Gallagher II Memorial Scholarship. And in a full-circle moment, four years after the conversation that made such a difference in Jenna’s life, she is the 2023 recipient of the scholarship in Michael’s memory.
Just like Michael, Jenna is passionate about the community, advocacy and creating change. Her educational experiences through her communication studies major and media advocacy minor taught her the power of her own voice and story. These interests led her to get involved in Undergraduate Student Government (USG), first as the Senator for the College of Communication and Information, then as the Director of Student Involvement. Jenna is currently serving Kent State’s student body as USG President.
After graduation in May, Jenna still plans to join the Peace Corps, but not right away. First, she plans on hiking the entirety of the Appalachian Trail.
“Michael made me feel at home at Kent State. He made me feel like we were supposed to meet and that there was a path for me. Michael has always been an inspiration to me, so it is an honor to receive this scholarship in his memory,” Jenna said.