April 2013

Homeless to college graduate

Anthony Ross didn’t seem much different from the other graduates who got their diploma from St. Augustine’s University on May 5. If he did stand out, it was more because of his accomplishments, notably student body president. But those who have heard his story know that the road to a college degree for Ross was a lot more difficult than the average college student.

When Ross came to SAU in 2009, he was living in a homeless shelter. Ross was only 13 years old when he lost his grandmother, who was his sole caretaker, to heart disease. With no knowledge of his father, he soon moved in with his mother. “All of the utilities were off in the house for months due to her drug use,” he recalled.

Ross’ mother’s attempt to take care of him and his three sisters only lasted nine months. “We ran out of the house one night when she tried to murder us with a meat cleaver,” he said. That horrific night would be the start of many to come.

In the streets of Washington, D.C., while Ross’ sisters went with their fathers; the young man learned to fend for himself. He became homeless, sleeping in cars and homeless shelters. Two aunts both from the mother’s side attempted to house him, but could not. “One tried to hit me with the frying pan because she was always stressed out,” Ross said. “The other was an alcoholic who threw my clothes out of her apartment and threw my birth certificate in my face.”

Friends of the family soon realized the need to remove him from the unsafe environment. Ross ended up with a family of 14 in a two- bedroom, Section 8 apartment. “I was beaten and they wouldn’t allow me to get food from the refrigerator” he recalled. Ross had no choice but to go back to the homeless shelter. His relationship with the family soured, especially after finding out they were receiving food stamps and welfare benefits using his name.

Ross constantly had to watch his back and protect his belongings because different people would sleep in the shelter throughout the night.  Unable to attend high school due to working two jobs and feeding and clothing himself, he enrolled in a GED program. Wanting something different the 16-year-old began to prepare for college in between jobs, studying for the SAT/ACT exams.

“I stayed up until three and four in the morning teaching myself algebra, trigonometry, logarithms, and geometry by watching YouTube videos, and I had tutors come out to the shelter to tutor me,” he recalled.

Ross soon got accepted into Saint Augustine’s University. He spent four to six hours a day in the library studying. Through encounters mentors and friends began to invite him to engage in their family holiday festivities such as Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.

Serving three years in the Student Government Association, Ross got elected Student Body President. He interned for the youngest appointed District Court Judge in Wake County, gaining experience in the fundamentals of the judicial system.

The Alpha Kappa Mu Honor Society member’s latest quest is to find his family members before he graduates May 2013.  He has been using social media in hopes to get in touch with his loved ones. But the senior desire is to graduate Summa Cum Laude and upon graduation attend Law School.

“I am hungry for education and hope that I am able to receive the opportunity to fulfill my dream of becoming one of the best federal judges that any law school has ever produced,” he said.