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Former College of Southern Maryland students Jennifer Lesesne, left, and James Graves, shown here on their wedding day in 2014, are offering the JLG Investment Scholarship for students in the business and IT field.

College of Southern Maryland alumni James Graves (Class of 2002) and Jennifer Lesesne (2004, 2005), who are both former CSM employees, are practicing believers of lifelong learning.

The Mechanicsville couple met while at the college, but found themselves on different paths for many years until, they say, the “universe” had other plans.

Now married, and with Jennifer continuing to serve College of Southern Maryland as an adjunct professor, the two have established a scholarship to assist students who are pursuing careers in business and information systems.

“Life has a way of throwing curveballs,” Graves said. “This scholarship is for students in the business and IT field who need a second chance, financial support, motivation to keep going, but most important, determination to succeed.”

The couple say they understand the struggle of being single parents, divorcees, and working full-time and running a business, all while pursuing an education.

“We get it,” Graves said. “JLG Dream Investments scholarship is here to help students pursue their educational dream so their degree, certificate, or license can help propel them where they want to be in the future.”

Graves’ 20-year career has always been focused around technology and IT, and working to support the college’s IT infrastructure. He began as a student assistant working at the CSM help desk and later transitioned to support the college’s systems and network administration.

Graves said he also discovered a true passion for cybersecurity where the focus was on ethical hacking and digital forensics. As an employee, he said College of Southern Maryland provided an opportunity for him to also develop and instruct courses with a concentration on cybersecurity and networking technologies. Once in the classroom and building educational resources, he realized he possessed a strong passion for instruction and giving back to his community. He currently works for the U.S. Navy’s Department of Defense and as an adjunct faculty member at the University of Maryland Global Campus.

“I learn as much from my students and peers,” Graves shared. “The ecosystem is supportive and very rewarding.”

A native Washingtonian, Lesesne’s resume now includes three associate degrees, a bachelor’s of science, two certificates, an M.B.A, a real estate agent’s license and an assortment of certifications and designations in the real estate industry.

Her affiliation with CSM spans nearly 20 years, and she continues to serve the college community as an adjunct faculty member. While working at the college, she also became the owner of Jenil Event Planning LLC before transitioning into a real estate career.

“I take pride in assisting my clients with their real estate goals, building my real estate investment portfolio and growing my property management business with my business partner,” she said. “I value the opportunity to encourage students to keep pressing forward, regardless of their current circumstances and I believe this scholarship will enhance students’ chances to open new doors in their lives.”

The couple married in 2014 and their blended family includes daughter Ava and 2020 CSM graduate Bianca, and son James, a 2018 CSM greaduate.

“We are very excited about establishing this scholarship,” Lesesne said. “Our goal is to eventually turn this scholarship into an endowment.”

The JLG Dream Investments Scholarship will support students pursuing a degree, certificate, letter of recognition or workforce training within the Business and Information Systems Guided Pathway at CSM. To be eligible for a JLG Dream Investments Scholarship, students must possess a high school diploma or equivalency, have a minimum 3.0 GPA, pursue a degree, certificate, letter of recognition, or workforce training within the Business and Information Systems Guided Pathway program at CSM.

For information on how to apply to or donate to the JLG Dream Investments scholarship, go to csmd.edu/foundation/give.