This is the story of Stephen Stafford. Ever heard of him? I’m willing to bet the farm (if I had a farm to bet) that you have not. Stephen Stafford is a remarkable young man, and his is a tale that should be lauded and aired on nightly news shows ad nauseam. Sadly, for reasons that are painfully too clear, it is not.
The story of young Mr. Stafford was written by Dr. Boyce Watkins last year, but few people knew it. Stephen is now a 14-year old student at Morehouse College right here in Atlanta, Georgia. Yes, I said 14. Stephen is a triple major at one of America’s foremost institutions of higher learning. He juggles the rigorous demands of his pre-med, math, and computer science concentrations, maintaining a 4.0 grade point average. It is truly astounding, and clearly a story that should be well publicized. Why is it not?
Young Stephen began his college career as an 11 year old, after being home schooled by his mother. His accomplishments at such a young age are amazing, and they typify the strength of will and dedication of the forgotten segment of young men and women– who strive to achieve amidst the detritus our society seems to prize.
If one is troubled by the disintegration of societal mores– and the weakening of our educational system– you need go no further than understanding what is praised and trumpeted by various media outlets. Ask yourself: Why would a rap video, or the entrance and exit of a celebrity from prison, be promoted more widely than the academic achievements of successful American students? Why is it more important to cover a superstar athlete’s whirlwind press tour than a young man’s knowledge of wind power as an alternative energy source?
We focus much too easily on celebrity–praising athletic prowess, while ignoring the fact that only a tiny percentage of people could ever become elite enough to star professionally.
The reality is, there are many more young men–and women–like Stephen Stafford. Young black men and women are not all part of some thugocracy, despite what those in mass media will have you believe. They are not all waiting to plot and scheme and victimize. Some are achieving at high levels, and they deserve the same respect and promotion as someone who catches passes or drains three point shots.
We do have a crisis in this nation. Our educational foundations are cracking, straining under the weight of mismanagement, underfunding, poor teachers, and uninvolved parents. Students are not taking their studies seriously, and are therefore bringing an undisciplined laziness to their work. The black community suffers from these negative attributes more than most. So it is critical to laud excellence when we’re witness to it.
All of us should know Stephen Stafford. He is the American dream– the epitome of success earned from hard work, perseverance and intelligence. It’s a pity most of us do not know his name.