- Associated Press - Saturday, November 1, 2014

NEW ALBANY, Ind. (AP) - The hat tells the story.

Since 2004, Paul Eddie Bobbitt wears or takes the black hat with the letter B on the front everywhere he goes. It’s part of who he is.

The B doesn’t represent a college or professional sports team, but it is a daily reminder of who he is and where he has come from.

“I always felt like it was my duty to lead the charge for my family,” he told the News and Tribune (http://bit.ly/1pbnfHq ). “When I won the Bell Award, it was one of those moments that, ‘I am doing it right.’”

Despite the many obstacles thrown at him in the past 18 years, Bobbitt has been doing life right, and others have benefited from his caring and giving nature.

Earlier this month, Bobbitt was one of 10 recipients of the WLKY Spirit of Louisville Foundation Bell Award. The program “recognizes individuals who have demonstrated the true spirit of Louisville through selfless volunteer efforts and seeks to inspire all residents to engage in community service.”

That pretty much describes the type of person Bobbitt is, according to those who know him. After graduating from New Albany High School in 2004, Bobbitt went on to the University of Louisville, where he received a bachelor’s degree in sports management and a master’s in higher education. He is a senior academic counselor at U of L’s College of Arts and Sciences.

However, he was honored with the Bell Award for his volunteer work, mainly with Camp Quality Kentuckiana, where he has volunteered for 10 years and is now the organization’s part-time director of development. He also is active at Northside Christian Church, New Albany Clean and Green and recently began a motivational speaking series titled “Shift” for middle and high school students.

This is where Bobbitt is now in his life, but when you look at what he has overcome, his achievements are even more inspiring.

Bobbitt’s mother died of cancer when he was 10 years old. His father was not part of his life. He was raised by his grandparents. His grandmother died in 2003, a year before he graduated from NAHS, and his grandfather passed away in 2010. In 2006, his older brother died unexpectedly.

“That was a chapter in my life where a lot of stuff could go either right or wrong,” said Bobbitt, 28. “I go back and think about the people I leaned on. I didn’t have a family, but I did have a support system, just a different way. That is what got me through some of my adversity.”

No one would have blamed him for taking a step back from his goal of obtaining a college degree following his brother’s death. But that is not who he is, and he credits many former teachers and a senior counselor at New Albany High School for giving him strength.

He said growing up, college was never really discussed at home, but those educators he leaned on kept pushing and encouraging.

“I was raised by my grandparents, so when it came to school it was do your best,” he said. “There was no pressure to go to college. But everything changed at New Albany between my sophomore and junior year. I attribute a lot of it to Laura (McGuirk, senior counselor). She believed in me and that was really powerful for me. I appreciate what she did for me.

“I was a good student at New Albany, but Ms. McGuirk lit a fire in me. She told me I could go to college. I started taking college visits my senior year and applied for scholarships.”

He also said Lt. Cmdr. Joe Maynard, who headed up New Albany’s NJROTC program, also played a big part in his development.

“He really pushed me to be a leader, and to be more outspoken when I had leadership opportunities,” Bobbitt said. “So many people were interested in me and I still don’t know why.”

“Looking back now, I now have that opportunity to help others the way those at New Albany helped me,” he said. “I know the impact, what it can do for people just to give a few words of encouragement. Maybe it’s helping people through a storm or just telling them what a great opportunity they have in front of them.”

And he said through it all, the hat will always be on his head or close by. He said he wants to always do well by the Bobbitt name and is driven by the memory of his mother, brother, grandparents and the desire to make a difference in his community.

“It may take me awhile,” he said with a smile, “but I am going to be Dr. Bobbitt someday.”

___

Information from: News and Tribune, Jeffersonville, Ind., http://www.newsandtribune.com

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