Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Melrose Valedictorian gets VIP send off from Samsung

Story and Image from Commercial Appeal

Very Inspirational Story!!!

Dellarontay Readus, Melrose High’s valedictorian and living proof of what its graduates can be, looked at the bright gift bags in front of him Tuesday, wiped a tear or two away, and in a few well-considered sentences, summed up his gratitude.

“Through the years, I wouldn’t have expected to receive such prestige. I’m not saying I did not believe in myself, but having all this in front of me right now is too surreal.”
“I would have been fine with whatever you had done. I meant that from my heart.”

Readus, 17, on his way to Stanford University on a full academic scholarship, bought two secondhand laptops this winter at a yard sale. One was for parts; the other was the one he hoped to refurbish and take to Stanford, California.

When Sharon Griffin, superintendent of Shelby County Schools’ iZone program, got word of this, she set out to shake things up. Tuesday, with a handful of SCS administrators, school board members and at least one proud alum — Judge Earnestine Hunt Dorse — in the school library, Readus got the VIP treatment.

“On behalf of Samsung, we are going to present you with a technology pack: a Samsung 10.1 inch android tablet, a Samsung series 2 Chromebook, and because two devices cannot possibly be enough to for any of today’s students, we’re adding a laptop with a Windows operating system,” said Diane Ashby, national manager for Samsung’s education strategies division in from Atlanta for the presentation.

There were also gift cards from a SCS central office collection, including a contribution from Supt. Dorsey Hopson.

“And this is just the start of the support. We’re also going to buy him a bike. And the bike he needs is going to cost $800 to $1,200,” Griffin said.

Readus turned up on the collective radar last fall when a minister in a food line talked to him long enough to note his promise, then told him to call Memphis Challenge, a group working since 1989 to identify talented minority students, get them to college and then back to Memphis to work.

“I knew he had a story,” executive director Cassandra Webster told the gathering.
“I’m often reminded of the African proverb: When spiderwebs unite, they can tie up lions.
Dellarontay, we’ve got you,” she said.

Since then, he’s been named one of three Keeper of the Dream recipients by the National Civil Rights Museum and offered additional free rides to Harvard and Princeton universities.

He’s also become the celebrated symbol of what can be at Melrose, a high school finishing its first year in the iZone, SCS’s treatment for schools performing in the bottom 5 percent.

“He’s the tangible presence. Students can see him, they can touch him,” said principal Mark Neal. “He comes from this neighborhood. ‘If he can get through the hurdles in his life, we can too.’ He’s very supportive of his classmates. He tutors others. He’s always doing something to help someone else. He catches the (MATA) bus to and from Melrose. Any destination he’s going to, he rides mass transit.”

Readus scored 31 on the ACT; a perfect score is 36. He’s also moved 21 times in his life, which means that school has been a series of starts, stops and interruptions.

The hardest part of his life, he said, “is staying focused in school.

“At one point in tenth grade, I was in all ninth-grade classes,” because the courses didn’t transfer well. “I was not able to take AP classes available at the time. I feel like if I had the opportunity, I would be even better.”

Readus and his mother, who’s been blind from birth, live on food stamps in a rundown apartment at Mississippi and Kerr. To contribute to their income, he tutors in math.

He also wants people to know the rumor-mongering about Melrose and Memphis in general is more toxic than people know.

“I have seen people at Melrose High, worse off than me, go on and do great. The things we are doing right — going to school and graduating — are not being understood.”

His advice to other students is to find someone to help. “You never know how much easier things can get if you have help. You may think no one can help, but you are wrong.”

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