Well, this isn’t the typical path to a college scholarship.
North Carolina high school senior David Cole Withrow was offered a scholarship to Liberty University earlier this month after University Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr. learned that Withrow had been arrested for bringing guns on school grounds, local outlet WRAL-TV reports.
When Withrow pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor crime last Thursday, Falwell announced on the university website that the scholarship offer still stood.
Withrow was arrested after he came to school with unloaded shotguns, which were left over from a weekend skeet-shooting trip, WTVD-TV reports. School officials learned of the guns in Withrow's car after the student was overheard on a call with his mother.
Withrow told police that he only realized the guns were still in his car when he was retrieving a book bag, according to WRAL-TV. After investigating the situation, police charged him with a felony for weapons possession, the outlet reports. The felony charge was later dropped to a misdemeanor.
Withrow’s story caught the eye of Falwell when a television segment about the incident pictured Withrow wearing a Liberty University T-shirt. Falwell called Withrow and learned that while the honors student was interested in attending the university, he did not have the finances to do so. In response, Falwell said the school “would give him whatever scholarships he needed to attend Liberty University,” Fox News reports.
“The anti-gun zealots seem to be vilifying him for making an honest mistake,” Falwell told Fox News of Withrow. “We want to reward him for trying to do the right thing.”
Liberty University is a private, Christian institution.
Withrow's sister, Hannah Walker, said the family was ecstatic that Falwell reached out.
“Just the fact that [Falwell] recognized it meant a lot to my family. But for him to reach out the way that he did and call Cole … we were so overwhelmed, both of my parents were emotional and excited. It was very much of a weight lifted off,” she said in a press release on the Liberty University website.
However, on May 16, Withrow strayed from his original story said he had known the guns were in his car when he arrived at school. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor crime.
“I believe it is necessary for me to issue this statement to correct the misinformation that has been reported by the media. I understand this inaccurate information resulted in many agencies and individuals suffering significant harm,” said Withrow in a statement obtained by The Huffington Post.
One day later, Falwell released a statement establishing that Withrow's confession would not affect their offer.
“I personally believe that Cole was forced to admit to more than he really knew. In any event, Liberty University is pleased that the charges against Cole Withrow were reduced to a misdemeanor," said Falwell, according to the university's website.
Jerry Falwell Jr. became the Liberty University Chancellor in 2007, after the passing of his father. Famed televangelist Jerry Falwell Sr. founded Liberty University in 1971.