It seems fitting that, in his native Zulu language, Sbonelo Dube's first name means “example.”
“I want to be an example, to make sure Americans trust and have enough confidence in other South African kids to do what I am doing,” says Dube, who speaks four languages fluently.
He was born in Mbali Township near Pieter Maritzburg, a city in South Africa. His family struggled at times because of poverty. Today, Dube is a student at Charlotte Latin School.
He arrived in 2006 as the first recipient of the Sbonelo Scholarship Foundation.
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“Sbonelo has overcome a lot of things that none of us could ever imagine,” says Rich Davies, who started the foundation. “But all along, he has kept an amazing sense of right and wrong. He has maintained a moral compass that has led him through some tough times.”
Dube arrived in Charlotte in 2006 as a 119-pound, 15-year-old freshman, standing 5 feet tall. Now he's a junior who stands 5-foot-5 and weighs 130 pounds. He has lived with four families since arriving. His mother, Thembeka, made the 19-hour trip to Charlotte to help him get settled, and Dube gets to go home on some holidays, thanks to the foundation.
“For me, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity, to go to school here. It has made me realize that there is so much out there, that I didn't even know about,” Dube says.
One of the things he didn't know was Davies' vision after a 2005 trip to South Africa – Davies' homeland. The poverty he saw inspired him to help some of the kids who don't get to attend school. It was during that time that he met Dube and the foundation was established.
“We are so privileged (in America) with all of our blessings,” said Davies, a former kicker for the Clemson University football team. “….It was important to me to give back.”
Davies has done that, with financial help from evangelist Michael Cassidy and his mission, African Enterprise. Assistance also came from Charlotte Latin and Headmaster Arch McIntosh.
Dube is currently living with the McIntosh family.
“Our main goal is to provide kids with great potential, but very little educational opportunity, to go to some of the best schools in South Africa and in the U.S.,” McIntosh said.
Dube's success has come in the classroom and on the playing field. He recently scored two goals in the championship game as the Hawks beat archrival Charlotte Country in the Ravenscroft (Raleigh) Invitational earlier this month.
“As good a player as he is, (Dube) is definitely a better person,” Charlotte Latin soccer coach Lee Horton said. A key fund-raiser for the Sbonelo Scholarship Foundation was held last spring, during the Wachovia Open golf tournament. Dube spoke to a gathering at Davies' home in Quail Hollow. He told them how much going to school in the U.S. means to him and that he hopes he's one of many who will get the opportunity. The foundation got a big boast when the board appointed Johan Immelman as the new CEO. Johan is the father of 2008 Masters' champion, Trevor Immelman.
Johan Immelman's presence already has attracted the support of PGA Tour professionals like Gary Player, Tim Clark and Davis Love III. Immelman says several fundraisers for the foundation have and will run in conjunction with PGA Tour stops, like the Wachovia Championship.
“We want to invite folks who want to help sponsor these kids to have the educational opportunities,” Immelman said. “There is no better way to invest in the future of our world than to help a kid get a great education.”