#EdMattersHere: Persistent support sets student on right path

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When I graduated from elementary school, my reading and math skills were at a third-grade level. So I was placed in special education in middle school. Those became the three most defining years of my life. The guilt and humiliation that I harbored deep within caused me to build a defense around myself to hide the disappointment I felt with my progress.

Once I came to the realization that I was going to be torn from my friends in the others classes and isolated in a single room with older students that were intimidating, I became disinterested in attending class. I was bullied by the older students in my class and the regular-education students because I was considered to have a learning disability. It was as though I had an epiphany as I began to get motivation to make a difference in the direction that my life was headed. I knew that the person that I was becoming was not who I actually was. The complacent state that had led me astray was replaced by the seriousness of the matter concerning my education. 

I have always had a supportive family structure striving to great lengths to ensure that each of my six siblings was prepared for school. The persistent support that they gave me, even in the face of my stubbornness, has left me better off. Following in the footsteps of my brother Brandon Norwood, graduate of Michigan State University, I am able to plot my trail toward success.  

I did successfully advance out of special education. This fall, I will be graduating from Alabama A&M University with a degree in political science. Through the years, I have transformed into a man that stands for social justice and civil rights. What our generation needs now more than ever are leaders who will continue the fight our ancestors started, and I want to be one of those leaders.

I started down that path with my involvement with the Hugs not Bullets campaign at Osborn High School. With the help of four other peers, we turned Osborn High School on its head. We implemented a male leadership camp for the young men in our community. Although as young as 12, each had issues related to gang, drugs or self-identity. We assisted in graduating from our program more than 100 young men. We also held a news conference and then had more than 1,500 students from our high school sign a petition to end gun violence in our communities. This movement soon spread to other high schools through Detroit. Several weeks later on New Year’s Eve, I hosted another news conference in front of Detroit’s City Hall with the chief of police concerning the same issue. 

While a student here at A&M, I have served as president of Men of America Nurturing and Ushering Progress Incorporated (MANUP), which is the largest, all male mentoring organization on campus. As president, I initiated the adoption of Ed White and Westlawn Middle Schools in the city of Huntsville, Ala., where we mentor the males with reading and other critical needs. The joy and confidence that we have restored to these young men is priceless. Helping the students improve their reading and math skills was a tremendous achievement for us all as we aimed to set the bar higher for the next school term. MANUP has also hosted educational seminars on campus that address relevant issues hindering students’ progress through college.

This year, I earned the Outstanding Student of the Year 2013 Award from my university, awarded by the university’s president and his wife. It came as a complete surprise to me, considering our university has a plethora of honorable leaders leading the way for change. It truly was an honor that I would receive such a prestigious award from the university that I love and serve.

My commitment to improving communities is a passion that is embedded in my heart and fueled by my experiences. My love for assisting others fuels my desires to make the necessary change that my city and campus require. I hope to bring this passion back to Detroit, where one day, I’d like to run for mayor.

-- Ronald Norwood is a senior at the Alabama A&M University.

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