An Unexpected Honor

HOWARD, Wis. (WBAY) It's a commencement speech that won't be forgotten anytime soon at UW-Green Bay.

"For me, I was born into a tough world. My parents were drug addicts and alcoholics. My parents went away to jail and prison throughout my childhood. I witnessed abuse and violence more times than I could count," Riley Garbe said to his fellow graduates in December.

It was then we brought you Riley's inspiring story of overcoming incredible odds to not only graduate but to be named Outstanding Student by the UWGB Alumni Association.

Riley's journey also inspired one viewer to make sure other students like him are honored for years to come.

The last few weeks have been quite the whirlwind for Riley, from college graduation to his first job as a Spanish teacher at St. John the Baptist School in Howard and Holy Family School in Green Bay.

"It happened so fast. It was, come home from Mexico, had the two ceremonies, the speech, the news interview, Christmas with my family, New Year's and boom, I was in the classroom," says Riley.

It was in that classroom last week Riley received an unexpected call.

"When I got that voicemail I thought this must be a hoax, because I've never had somebody reach out to me and offer $20,000 in scholarships in my honor," says Riley.

But that's exactly what Bill Welter, a retired advertising executive and board member of the Brian LaViolette Scholarship Foundation, had in mind.

"When I saw the commencement speech, I knew that man was a man of honor, was a man of truth and humility and love, so you can't find people like that in the world these days, so thanks WBAY and you for bringing that to our attention, he exemplifies what the LaViolette Foundation is all about," says Welter.

"It brought me to tears because I felt so honored and so humbled to be asked to be part of something like that," adds Riley.

Riley met Welter for the first time today and learned more about the honor.

A $2,000 scholarship will be awarded in his name for the next ten years at Freedom High School, where he attended.

Riley will also be part of the selection committee.

"Someone who's been through a lot of adversity in their life but was courageous, persevered, never gave up faith, never gave up home and is a survivor," says Riley.

In other words, students aspiring to be just like Riley.

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