For Graham Knoll, service has long been a staple of his everyday life. After years of community service and involvement through Boy Scouts, Knoll achieved the coveted rank of Eagle Scout last June.

“Becoming an Eagle Scout felt amazing,” said Knoll. “I’d been working for it for several years. The troop feels like a second family to me. There are a lot of people that helped me along the way, and I just love working with them.”

Knoll’s passion for service earned him a McLean County Full Tuition Scholarship, which provides free tuition to students who have a history of leadership, community service, and commitment to our community. He will study cybersecurity at Illinois State and is one of seven incoming Redbird recipients.

Knoll’s journey to Eagle Scout was filled with service projects across McLean County. Knoll and his fellow scouts gave their time to organizations such as Chefs for PATH, where they washed dishes, and the Herb Guild of McLean County, where they helped rebuild the herb garden on a corner of East Market Street next to the Constitution Trail. The scouts measured out the ground, dug up grass, spread mulch, made a path with stones, and replanted flowers.

“Despite this being a one-off project, I still am reminded of the impact the garden had on the surrounding neighborhood,” said Knoll. “When we were working on it, several children and parents in the neighborhood came to comment on how beautiful the garden was.”

Additionally, Knoll is a member of the Order of the Arrow—scouting’s national honor society dedicated to teaching the importance of environmental stewardship. Knoll has consistently attended the local chapter’s annual get-together at Camp Ingersoll, where he has whacked weeds, cleaned out sheds, prepped the pool for the winter, and split wood for fires and ceremonies.

“For these forms of service, I get to directly see how they impact people,” said Knoll. “When I visit camp in the following winters or summers, I can see the work that others and I have put into making Camp Ingersoll a wonderful place to spend time outdoors.”

Coming into Illinois State, Knoll strives to continue his service to McLean County. Knoll is interested in joining Alpha Phi Omega, a service fraternity that made an impact on him at a young age.

“When I was looking at clubs, I found Alpha Phi Omega and I remembered them from my Cub Scout days,” said Knoll. “In the past, I have seen them coordinate merit badge days for Boy Scouts, and if I were to join, it would be a way for me to give back to the community and the local scout troops while still in college.”

Knoll also wants to find clubs that suit his other hobbies such as movies and video games. Coming from a small class at Central Catholic High School, he is most excited to meet new people and create a memorable college experience.

“I’m just really ready to branch out and meet a lot of new people,” said Knoll.

Displaying an interest in computers from a young age, Knoll naturally gravitated toward cybersecurity. “I’ve always been interested in computers and I always knew that I wanted to work with them,” said Knoll. “Last year I took a class about network security and I thought it sounded really interesting. I thought I’d be good at it if I learned more about it and continued to learn, because computers are always changing.”

Thanks to the McLean County Full Tuition Scholarship, Knoll is on the right track to pursuing a career in cybersecurity. He is grateful for the scholarship and still in shock that he was selected, vividly remembering the day that he was notified.

“When I got it, I was checking my email at school and I saw the message. I was totally ecstatic,” said Knoll. “It was exhilarating. This scholarship is just amazing.”

This is the second story in our “Taking Flight” series, profiling this year’s recipients of the McLean County Full Tuition Scholarship.