Jerry Bracey posing for a photo with the Project Liftoff donors

A Winning Experience From the Jump

↖ This heading is for screen readers and wont be visible on the page.

Jerry Bracey II Is Enjoying the First Stage of His Liftoff

Photo of Jerry Bracey with the words "Educate, Innovate, Launch" in the background
The Project Liftoff scholarship and student success program at Embry-Riddle’s David B. O’Maley College of Business is recruiting and nurturing the next generation of business leaders for aviation and aerospace.

The first-ever Liftoff scholar, Jerry Bracey II is an outstanding student-athlete, Business Eagle and future leader who is showing tremendous potential as he explores the educational, internship and mentorship opportunities made possible by the program.

Fresh from basketball practice, Jerry Bracey II made time to share an update on his experience as the first Project Liftoff Scholar.

What are you enjoying about life at Embry-Riddle?

The people, including the donors supporting my scholarship. It has been a blessing, building those relationships, getting their advice and hearing their stories. As someone who came in not knowing a lot about aviation, I just want to learn and be open.

Have you zeroed in on what you want to do in the industry, or are you still exploring?

I’m leaning towards marketing or project management/ consulting, but I’m still open to discovering what’s out there for me.

You had your first internship with AssuredPartners. What was that experience like?

I loved spending the summer with the company and with Bill Kingsley, who has been a great mentor from the jump. I received loads of knowledge at an extremely fast pace, but he took time to make sure I was understanding and learning what was going on in the workplace and what they were doing in aviation insurance. It was an amazing networking opportunity getting to meet clients at renewal meetings.

With AssuredPartners, you went to EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh?

That was an insane experience, seeing all those aircraft. We were there for four to five days, and it was a lot to take in. I got to see the relationships between AssuredPartners and other companies in a completely different atmosphere than I was used to.

What are you learning about yourself?

I would say I was an introvert, but being around so many leaders and inspirational people my public speaking and communication skills are growing. Communication is not just what you say, but what you take in. That is why I keep reaching out to my donors. I want to learn their stories and about their careers. Because I’ve met donors in groups as well, I get to see how they were able to put two and two together with people of different skillsets and then communicate the message of what they were trying to do based on the company culture. I want to be a leader as well, not an employee, I want to inspire and motivate. And the donors have invested so much time with me, so I’m just extremely thankful for that.

You have to be on top of your game when it comes to time management, right?

During my freshman year, that was definitely a big struggle. Being on the basketball team, being in the classroom and hanging out with friends on campus took a toll on me at first. But each year, I got better and better. I’m extremely grateful that I got to go through that because I’ve been told by people that I’ve networked with and by donors that time management is up there with communication. If you can’t balance work with family life and hobbies, you won’t really be able to function in your workplace.

How do friends and family back in South Bend feel about you being an Eagle?

They absolutely love it. I have three sisters and a brother, and we are very close. Obviously, with me being this far away and away for so long, it was very hard. But my dad’s side of the family lives in Atlanta, and they were able to meet my coaches and our staff when we played there. They loved meeting them and knowing I’m in great hands. They know what I’m doing is really going to benefit my career.

You briefly gave up on basketball and worked in factories after high school?

I wanted to play Division I college basketball, but that didn’t work out. I worked two factory jobs, 8- to 10-hour shifts, five days a week. After several months, a conversation with a friend and a well-known Hall of Fame coach led me to reopen my recruitment and the call I got that stood out — by a landslide — was Coach Ridder from Embry-Riddle. We talked for at least two hours.

You didn’t have an interest in aviation or aerospace at that point?

I knew nothing about aviation and aerospace, so this was something new that I could be a part of. So I was thinking, “Hey, I can get introduced into this new industry, something that no one really knows about back home. I can create a name for myself rather than following everyone else’s path.” And I thought if the people I would deal with would be like Coach Ridder, then that was definitely a place that I would want to be. I was at Embry-Riddle about three weeks later.

What is next for you?

I will be interning with Priester Aviation in the summer in Chicago. But I started the internship remotely after New Year’s so I can get a taste of the types of projects they’ll have me doing.

It sounds like you are making great connections with the Eagle network.

Every flight I take, when people see the gear or t-shirt I’m wearing, they say, “Hey, I went there!” It’s amazing to become a part of it all.

Help our students start their companies, learn to lead and change the industry.

Make a Gift

Our student-athletes need your support to grow their skills and represent their university across the globe. 

Give to Athletics