Of three sizable scholarships given each year by a national public housing group, Charlotte’s Javari Parks won two. He’s poised to get another monetary award July 28 from the Charlotte Housing Authority.
So this young man – diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, in elementary school, rendered homeless as a high school junior and sidelined from football by a torn ACL as a senior – will head to Hampton University this August with nearly $18,000 in scholarships.
He couldn’t answer questions immediately Wednesday because he was out applying for a summer job doing housekeeping at a church. But when he finished, he was pleased to talk.
“I don’t know where to start” on how public housing has helped him, said Parks, who turns 18 on July 4.
He moved to North Carolina from Georgia in 2010 with his sister and their mother, Toi Parks, to live with a family member, and began attending Hickory Ridge High in Harrisburg. When the living arrangement didn’t work out – he got a ride with the relative to football practice and came home to find all the locks changed, he said – the three were homeless.
It was “the biggest obstacle I ever faced in my life,” he wrote in a recent essay for the Charlotte Housing Authority.
Toi Parks, who’d served as an electrician in the Navy in Hawaii in the early 1990s, could have gone to a women’s shelter with daughter Aaliyah but was determined to keep the small family together.
The CHA helped her get something called a HUD-VASH, which combines rental assistance for veterans with case management. That let her find housing in Charlotte for Javari’s senior year. He graduated June 10 from Phillip O. Berry and credits Berry biology teacher Timothy Guilfoyle as an inspiration.
HUD-VASH services also included SAT and ACT prep for Parks, along with college workshops and seminars. Those, combined with what he calls his mother’s insistence to “keep your grades up because that’s something no one can take away from you,” enabled him to apply to seven colleges – and get into six.
“It is my dream to one day get out of poverty,” Parks wrote in that essay. “Education is the key.”
It’s exactly that determination that most impressed A. Fulton Meachem Jr..
“When I first met him, he had such resolve and confidence about what he wants to be,” said Meachem, the Charlotte Housing Authority’s CEO. “This is what we do every day… give (people) an opportunity to live out their dream.”
The national group, called the Public Housing Authority Directors Association, named Parks the winner of the Stephen J. Bollinger Memorial Scholarship, which goes to one student in the country with the leadership characteristics of the organization’s founder. (Bollinger worked for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and died at 36.)
Parks also won, on the basis of an essay, that group’s Freedom and Civil Rights Scholarship.
The CHA scholarship fund comes from contributions from individuals and groups, not federal, state or local government money.
In August, Parks will begin a six-year program at Hampton that results in a Doctor of Pharmacy degree.
Why that field?
“When I was diagnosed with ADHD, I was prescribed Adderall,” he said. “And it worked for me. I know another child who also had ADHD, was prescribed the same medication, and it didn’t work. He had to switch three or four times. I was always just curious why the medication didn’t work for him but worked for me.”
So he intends to find out.
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