April 04, 2012
| Ed Bustos and Jeremy Sharpe ’12. (Photo by Jim Hogue)
For Jeremy Sharpe ’12, the road to Rollins was far from smooth. Having been raised through Ohio’s foster care system since he was a small child, Sharpe didn’t arrive on campus with two caring parents to send him off lovingly into four years of college. He arrived alone, and with the exception of his aunt in St. Louis, had very little outside support, encouragement, and guidance. It’s no surprise that by winter break of his freshmen year, he felt more lost and alone than he had ever felt in his life.
That’s when he met Ed Bustos, director of international admission. Sharpe, a red-shirted member of the men’s basketball team, caught his notice during the team’s annual tournament in Las Vegas when Bustos helped the athlete carry his bags in the airport. “I had packed up everything from my dorm,” Sharpe recalled. “I wasn’t planning on coming back to Rollins.”
Bustos listened as Sharpe explained that he had not been happy on campus and was ready to throw in the towel. Bustos convinced him to return to Rollins in January and give it another year. “I think, at first, I thought this kid needs help, guidance. A lot of individuals can fall through the cracks in this situation,” Bustos said. “But now he’s become family; he is like my son, in a sense.”
Through the years since the informal mentorship began, Bustos has helped Sharpe get grants and financial aid, as well as become a Florida resident. He’s attended all of Sharpe’s basketball games home and away, connected him with resources he’s needed, and he has given him the guidance, support, and encouragement that was lacking in his life.
“Meeting Ed was a game-changer for me,” the psychology major said. “I was graced with a talent to get me through school, but probably would have gone into debt and wouldn’t have developed the same way as a person if it wasn’t for him.”
Sharpe, who plays guard on the men’s basketball team, is an accomplished athlete with the opportunity to continue to excel in the sport. But when he was kicked off of the team in 2009 and subsequently left Rollins for one year, he realized he better have a Plan B.
“I always figured I could get by on athletics,” Sharpe recalled. “But academics has become more important now. Ed has encouraged me to set myself up for the future the best way I can.”
Over the years, Director of Athletics Pennie Parker has seen several instances where mentoring has made all the difference for a student who needed a hand staying on course. "Jeremy's success is a great example of positive mentoring,” she said. “Ed has been a great support system for Jeremy, and we are so proud of Jeremy's accomplishments."
In a few weeks, Sharpe will become the first member of his family to graduate from college. “My parents never graduated from high school. When I have kids, I don’t want them to be raised like I was. I cannot fail.”
Bustos knows he won’t. “If someone can go through this much and survive, I know he has the drive to succeed. He’ll be successful in whatever he does, and not just financially,” said Bustos. “I think he has grown as an individual. He’s become a thriving person.”
Leaving Rollins will be sad for Sharpe, which is a far cry from how he felt in his freshman year when he couldn’t imagine graduating. “I am a part of Rollins; this is family now.”
By Kristen Manieri