By Tony Khing
For as long as either one could remember, Owen McGrattan and Alysse Billigmeier were always close. They’ve known each other since birth as their mothers were very close friends. McGrattan considers Billigmeier as one of his best friends. Billigmeier said there wasn’t a day they weren’t together while growing up.
But one day five years ago, McGrattan became an orphan after he lost both parents in an act of domestic violence. With no place to go, Billigmeier’s family invited McGrattan to live with them and made him a part of the family. McGrattan’s relationship with Billigmeier changed from being close friends to that of brother and sister.
“It was a jarring time for me,” said McGrattan. “I felt disoriented and lost. Having a friend like Alysse made things feel more familiar to me.”
“Although I’ve always seen him as a brother, it was still a hard transition,” said Billigmeier. “But I would do it all over again to make him feel part of our family.”
McGrattan and Billigmeier could’ve been negatively affected by these life-altering events. But their positive attitude and competitive spirit helped them excel at Stockton’s Linden High School. In fact, McGrattan had only one person rank ahead of him in their senior class: Billigmeier. Their academic performance helped each earn a scholarship from PG&E’s Samahan (Filipino) Employee Resource Group.
“We both knew we applied for multiple PG&E ERG scholarships,” said McGrattan. “It was an exciting surprise when we found out we both received a scholarship from the same ERG.”
“It was crazy when Owen and I received a PG&E Samahan ERG scholarship,” said Billigmeier. “We didn’t think it was possible because we thought the scholarship committee knew we were brother and sister (they didn’t until the students were notified of their honors). It means so much to both of us to receive our scholarships.”
McGrattan and Billigmeier sincerely understand the importance behind their PG&E ERG scholarships.
“College isn’t cheap,” said McGrattan, a statistics major at the University of California at Berkeley. “Students need all the help they can get. They should be aware of the great opportunity PG&E ERG scholarships present. I’m incredibly thankful.”
“It’s a simple way to earn money towards your tuition,” said Billigmeier, an undeclared freshman at the University of San Diego. “You’re also able to meet the wonderful people who make up the PG&E ERG community. Everyone at PG&E is so kind and so willing to help.”
These days, McGrattan and Billigmeier attend school nearly 500 miles apart from each other. They knew they couldn’t stay together forever.
“It was a day we both knew was coming,” said McGrattan.
“It has been a good experience for both of us to meet new people and start our new lives in different places,” said Billigmeier.
But they’ll always have their close friendship and shared life experiences. And McGrattan and Billigmeier will have one other thing in common: a PG&E ERG scholarship.
Last year, PG&E’s 10 ERGs awarded a record $430,000 to 176 deserving students. Since 1989, $4.5 million in scholarships have been awarded to thousands of recipients. Funds come from employee donations, fundraising events and Campaign for the Community, the company’s employee giving program.
Get more information on how to apply for an ERG scholarship. The deadline is Feb. 1.