SCW student turns personal tragedy into positive achievement
When Drew Ryherd sat down to compose his application essay for a scholarship from the Megan Meier Foundation, an organization that aims to prevent bullying and raise suicide prevention awareness, he knew the best thing to do was write from the heart. Unfortunately for Ryherd, a senior at St. Charles West High School, his heart was all too familiar with the pain that comes from losing someone to mental illness, depression and suicide.
On February 13, 2015, his best friend Liam Michael Picker, a talented music composer and pianist, took his own life after struggling many years with mental illness. This loss had a profound effect on Ryherd and deeply impacted his outlook on life.
“Growing up with him, I got to see first hand all the warning signs of depression and mental illness and it really stuck with me,” Ryherd said. “So when I lost my friend Liam, I made it my personal mission to make sure no one had to suffer what he went through.”
Determined to make a difference, Ryherd channeled his grief into a positive outlet. He, along with Picker’s parents and others who were close to Liam, launched the Liam Michael Foundation, a non profit that seeks to honor the memory of Picker and to advance the field of suicide awareness/ prevention.
“The Liam Michael Foundation goal is to make a difference in the community concerning suicide and depression, mostly at a youth level, but for anyone who’s struggling,” Ryherd said.
It’s because of these efforts within the community that Ryherd was chosen as one of three recipients in the St. Louis Metro area for the Megan Meier Memorial Scholarship, a $1,000 scholarship presented by SSM Health and the Megan Meier Foundation to high school seniors.
Ryherd will be putting the scholarship towards his tuition at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, where he plans to continue his education in business. Currently, he is studying business at the St. Charles County Center for Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS), a program that offers students an educational opportunity to immerse themselves in a professional environment for high demand, high quality jobs.
Ryherd’s goal is to use the educational experiences he receives at college and the St. Charles CAPS program to create his own non profit to help those who struggle with mental illness or who have felt the loss from suicide. While he humbly admits that the idea is in the early stages of conception, Ryherd’s project, titled “Team Yellow”, the cause color for suicide awareness, has plenty of momentum behind it.
“I have a small unofficial committee of people advising me from the CAPS program who are giving me fantastic advice on how to start a 503c non profit organization,” Ryherd said. “It’s something I’m very passionate about, so the process has been fun.”
Due to his resolve and positive outlook, Team Yellow is just one more way that Ryherd will turn his personal tragedy into another person’s positive gain.