Growing up the son of a single mother in Detroit, Roy Heron faced adversity and overcame it becoming a successful doctor along the way and now he wants to let local students know they can do it too.
Heron, who launched his career in Alexandria, is raising $15,000 to bring a Ben Carson Reading Room to T.C. Willliams High School. The program, which Heron helped found with friend and medical school classmate Ben Carson, is new to the Washington area.
Though a Carson Scholars Fund board member since its inception, Heron decided to start a D.C. chapter after learning Alexandrias sole public high school had been slapped with a persistently low-achieving label by the state and federal governments.
Lets just say that when I read that article in the paper in March of this year concerning T.C. Williams, thats what sparked me. Ive got to do it now. Timing is everything, he said. I consider myself to be a spark, I dont think I can do it all myself, but sometimes we have to not just depend on the government to do everything. We need to do it ourselves, to correct problems in society.
At age 15, Herons mother told him she could only afford to send one of her children to college his older sister. Instead of giving up, he put himself through college and then medical school, eventually opening a successful practice in Alexandria.
Hes determined local children struggling with adversity can do the same. They just need to know they can, Heron said.
I felt the reason for those kids scores not to be what they should be is not because of the equipment they had at the schools, he said. These kids go home and theyre most likely coming from a single parent home, most likely without a father, and their mother is working two jobs and not home when the kids get there. Those kids are thinking theres no way out of their environment.
The Ben Carson Reading Rooms program is designed to pay for and provide a safe area for children to browse books from every genre and author, giving them a chance to work on their literary chops at the same time. The end goal is to promote reading among students and their families. More than 50 reading rooms are open in schools across seven states.
In April, Heron brought his idea to Mayor Bill Euille, who set up a meeting with Superintendent Morton Sherman. Hes since partnered with local organizations, like Alexandrias NAACP chapter, and businesses to get the ball rolling. Communications giant Verizon is waiting to see whether Heron succeeds before joining in, but theyre watching with interest, he said.
Heron will host his first fundraiser at the New Zealand Embassy in Washington on Thursday.
School Board Chairman Yvonne Folkerts welcomes Herons help. Theres no silver lining to the persistently low-achieving tag hanging over T.C., she said, but it has created an opportunity for success indicative of Herons support.
The label hurt, but I think we have moved to a place where its a terrific opportunity and lets use this as a reason to rise above a label and build a school where every single student succeeds, Folkerts said. I hope [the reading room] is another avenue to what were doing. Anything we can do to bring in inspirational stories like this and create positive learning atmospheres, it augments what is already there.
Heron also pledged a $3,000 scholarship for students of the schools choosing, part of the Carson Scholarship program. Theyre starting small focusing on T.C. first but he envisions a day down the line where every school in the greater Washington area boasts a reading room.
These kids, when they see that there are people who care about them, who dont even know about them its got to be inspirational to see people who do care, Heron said. My goal is not only the Carson reading rooms, but to learn of and find other people in the area who have pulled themselves up by their bootstraps, to bring them in to speak to the kids and so forth. Theyll have many examples of why they can and will be successful. Thats my goal.