A prominent Baltimore County businessman is raising $12,000 to help Calvert Hall College High School graduate Michael A. Soule pay for his first year of college, while his family is working to have the Army reverse its decision barring him from an ROTC scholarship because he is dyslexic.
James G. Morgan Jr., a managing partner in Heritage Financial Consultants in Lutherville and a Calvert Hall graduate, offered his help last week and has raised more than half of the $12,000.
Morgan plays down his efforts.
"It's an avocation for me, raising money for dyslexic kids," said Morgan, who knows firsthand about dyslexia. He was diagnosed as an adult with the neurological disorder that impairs reading. He also has four children with dyslexia.
Morgan and his wife, Bernice, raised money to start the Xavier Program at Calvert Hall 18 years ago. The program helps students with mild learning disabilities.
"Education has been real important to me," Morgan said. "I was a kid who suffered because of my dyslexia. Giving a student a little extra time on a test is no gauge of his intelligence."
Soule's family members said they "are thrilled and grateful" for Morgan's help.
"Mr. Morgan called me ... and asked how much money we needed," said Soule's mother, Ginger. "He committed to raising $12,000."
The family also is hoping to persuade the Army to change its mind about the scholarship.
Soule's father, Thomas L. Soule, wrote to John P. McLaurin III, deputy assistant secretary of human resources for the Department of the Army, asking the Army to give his son a chance and award him a three-year scholarship if he measures up to military standards during his first year at James Madison University in Virginia. Soule was turned down because dyslexia is among the conditions that result in medical disqualification from the military.
The teen-ager has no idea about Morgan's fund-raising activities because he has been in Mexico for several weeks with a church group, helping to build houses for the poor in a village.
Ginger Soule said she and her husband are considering meeting their son, known as "Mick" to family and friends, at the airport tonight and surprising him with a JMU sweat shirt. The family is planning a trip to the Harrisonburg, Va., campus tomorrow to register him for fall classes.
Soule, 18, of Baldwin, graduated last month from Calvert Hall, where he was a member of the National Honor Society, was an A-minus student and scored 1170 on his SAT. He also was a varsity athlete.
He came to Calvert Hall's Xavier Program after graduating from the Odyssey School, which enrolls students with dyslexia.
Soule wanted to pursue a career in the Army, like his two older brothers, and applied for an ROTC scholarship at James Madison, where he was accepted for the fall term. The four-year scholarship is worth more than $60,000.
But the Army turned him down, saying a medical waiver is granted for applicants with learning disabilities if they are no longer eligible for enrollment in a special education program and no special accommodations are provided in the previous 12 months.
Soule then applied to the Essex campus of the Community College of Baltimore County because he could not afford JMU without the scholarship. His family had spent his college fund sending him to the Odyssey School and to Calvert Hall to help him learn to compensate for his learning disorder.
After he was denied a chance at the ROTC scholarship, Calvert Hall set up a scholarship fund for Soule, which totals about $1,800.
Jennifer Healy, director of the Xavier Program, praised Morgan's generosity.
"Jim Morgan has been a wonderful supporter of the Xavier Program since he started it 18 years ago," she said. "Now he is making it possible for Mick to attend college."
In the meantime, staff members for Sens. Paul S. Sarbanes and Barbara A. Mikulski and Reps. Wayne T. Gilchrest and C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger are drafting a letter to the Department of Defense, asking it to reconsider its policy on disqualifying dyslexics from serving in the military.