Bill Ferguson (Baltimore ’05) represents Maryland’s 46th District in the State Senate.
Several weeks ago, a former student of mine sent me a Facebook message. This student is someone who I'd never forget—he's incredibly smart, talented, and motivated, and he stood out as a student committed to his future.
We hadn't connected in awhile, and it was really great to hear from him. In his message, he wrote, "Mr. Ferguson, can you give me any advice on getting into an office environment? I'd love to work on computers. I don't have the 'education/degrees' as proof, but if given the chance, I know I wouldn't disappoint." My immediate thought was, he's right, give him the chance, and he will succeed. He deserves it.
Photo by Øyvind via Wikimedia Commons
I know it because I saw his attitude in my class. Antuan is an example of a former student who motivates me everyday in public life. Had he the chance to grow up in a more affluent community, there is no doubt in my mind that he would have received a full scholarship to a top 4-year university. Instead, he worked his tail off to overcome enormous hurdles to succeed, and he graduated from NAF high school.
Antuan reached out because he had recently moved back to Baltimore City. He was looking for work, and he was seeking guidance. I wanted to do whatever I could to help.
With a bit of networking, and a bit of luck, I was able to connect Antaun with the President of CyberPoint, a growing cyber-security firm in the City. The company's President spoke at a dinner I attended a few months ago, and this business leader made a point to explain how he viewed his role as expanding opportunity for the City's youth—providing options and an economic ladder for growth. I had a suspicion that he'd take a meeting with my former student and give Antaun some guidance, maybe even an entry-level job.
Antaun prepared. He read up on the company, studied what they did. We connected several times over the phone to get ready for the interview. I told him he needed a suit and tie. I explained that he should get there 20 minutes early, and leave room during travel for delays. I told him to bring a notebook, suggested a few questions he should ask, and told him to be himself and be confident. Although he was nervous, Antaun was ready and he was excited.
The interview was planned for this past Monday, but there was a last minute rescheduling. I let Antaun know that this was normal and he shouldn't worry about it. The meeting was rescheduled for Friday, and Antaun, again, was ready.
On Friday morning, I received an email from Antaun asking for guidance. His brother, a U.S. Navy sailor, had come home for a short visit with his family in Baltimore. Antaun and his brother were unloading groceries on Wednesday night when two individuals walked up from behind and, without speaking, started shooting. Antaun's bother was shot and killed. Home on leave from the US Navy after a 9-month deployment and shot dead in front of his grandmother's house.
In Antaun's email, he wrote that he was devastated and couldn't understand how this could happen. And rather than focusing on himself in this time of unbelievable hurt and pain, he was writing to ask me if he should go ahead with the interview. . .because he didn't want to disappoint me.
I told him to reschedule. I told him I was so sorry. . .to tell me if there was anything I could do. And I told him to stay strong.
What else could I say? That this senseless gun violence is beyond infuriating? That we don't have nearly enough urgency in stopping the violence in our communities? That if only he had grown up in another neighborhood maybe this wouldn't have happened?
I can't stop thinking about it. I cannot get the injustices that led up to this horrific incident out of my mind. We're not doing enough, we're simply not doing enough.
Bill’s commitment to progressive renewal in Baltimore City began when he came to work in the city’s public schools through Teach for America teaching U.S. history and U.S. government to ninth and tenth graders. Recognizing the injustices that City Schools students faced everyday —too few classroom materials, dilapidated facilities, inferior student transportation options—Bill fought to establish a culture of achievement in his classroom everyday.