My thirteen year-old grandson is one of the children left behind. His father, Henry “Papa” Anthony was twenty-two when he was murdered. Najir was eighteen-months-old. As his maternal grandmother, I have watched his grief grow along with him, first crying out for his daddy, then enjoying the stories and photos the family shared with him, next realizing, “My dad is never coming back” and finally where he is now. Now is the time in his life that he truly grieves. There are times when he cries because he no longer has any memory of his father. He refuses to visit his father’s gravesite because he believes it will hurt too much. Najir is his father’s only child and therefore his legacy. He is the gift given to us bringing light to such dark circumstances.
We live in Rochester, New York, which has one of the highest violent crime rates in the nation across communities of all sizes. It is the fifth poorest city in the country among the top 75 largest metropolitan areas. It has the poorest school district in Upstate New York and the poorest urban district in the entire state. Our infant mortality rate is double the national average. Rochester’s 9% graduation rate for African-American males is the lowest in the country.
The amount of loss Najir has experienced at such a young age and environmental factors are why we considered boarding school. He has a sense of honor and justice that needs to be nurtured. We want him to flourish in an environment that gives him structure, positive role models, provides him with a sense of pride in himself and what he is capable of accomplishing in his life. His acceptance into Hargrave Military Academy, the premiere military boarding school in America is his opportunity. It is a college preparatory program, taking cadets from seventh grade through a post-graduate year before entering college. We can provide him with love, safe harbor, shelter but we cannot teach how to be a man and right now that is the most important asset Hargrave has. We also believe Hargrave can turn him around academically.
As Najir’s first year draws to a close, it has been a great success. Academically, he has taken enormous strides and regained the self-confidence lost while attending our local schools. He is a member of Hargrave’s first Robotics team and they placed sixth in the Virginia State Championships. He is a drummer in the Highlander Parade Band and has starting playing trumpet again. On his recent report card, his music teacher noted that he is an extremely talented musician and clearly exceeds grade level expectations. Najir played on the middle school football and basketball teams and now continues Robotics as his competitive sport.
Our family, with each visit home, sees the well rounded academic, physical, emotional and spiritual growth of our young man. We are extremely proud and so appreciative of Hargrave’s faculty and staff for recognizing his best qualities as a sensitive, compassionate and empathetic individual. He is well liked throughout school. We are grateful for the wonderful experiences he had this school year.
Hargrave’s 2[phone redacted] school year has seen many notable events. Character.org, a national advocate and leader for the character education movement, named Hargrave a 2015 School of Character. Hargrave was recognized as a Virginia Living Top School. A $500,000 gift was received from the Jennie Noell Willmarth estate. The Danville Pittsylvania County Chamber of Commerce funds the Hargrave Social Studies Tiger Tech Laboratory. The school’s Social Studies Department is now a part of the Gilder Lehman Institute of American History’s Affiliate Program, which is funded, in part, by the National Endowment for the Humanities. Finally, as of April 9, the 2015 graduating class has received $3,181,068 in college scholarships. This amount includes the span of four years.
Spring starts our annual fundraising campaign for Najir’s tuition and boarding school expenses that includes, tuition and boarding, clothing, transportation to and from school, incidentals, etc. We thank everyone who contributed this past year. This year’s goal of $32,000 will match a $21,000 family contribution and a $12,000 scholarship. Now, I ask you to please make a donation - no amount is too small. To those of you who contributed last year we thank you for your support.
This campaign will be ongoing throughout the duration of his education. We ask for your help and hope that you will become a part of "the village" raising him.
Check out the school's website at www.hargrave.edu
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