Anthony Ross has a harrowing story that’s hard not to be moved by. I was moved by it when I met him, a young man who’d been homeless since he was 13 and before that, living in poverty with his drug addicted mother. Anthony, despite his difficult upbringing and homelessness told me he had a dream. It was to get out of his cycle of homelessness and poverty and go to college. Together, with taking Anthony on as a mentee, we set out just to make that happen. The following story was captured by a staff writer for the #GoodPeopleProject
Anthony Ross is a dreamer.
Although it may be surprising to learn that, once you know where he came from. Where can one find dreams when all you know is pain, hurt and poverty? And yet Anthony had them. He had them at his darkest moments and in the direst circumstances. Dreams for a better life. For a way out of a cycle that for far too many young black boys leads to death and ruin.
Anthony grew up in Washington, D.C. where he and his older sisters were being raised by their grandmother. But while some grandparents can carry the load, Anthony’s grandmother wasn’t equipped to care for him.
“Whenever I got in trouble I’d get locked in my room for days without eating,” Anthony said. “I accumulated a lot of diseases from not eating. My grandmother didn’t have the patience.”
Her lack of patience lead to them not having much of a relationship, yet, when she died from heart disease an already rough situation became worse as Anthony and his three older sisters were sent to live with their crack addicted mother in a house with no heat, electricity or running water in Upper Marlboro, Maryland.
Even less fit than their grandmother, their severely addicted mother tried to attack her children with a meat cleaver.
“One night she chased us out of the house with a meat cleaver knife trying to murder us,” Anthony recalled. “The police came and saw she was unfit. She had crack pipes everywhere. The police told us we had to find somewhere to live.”
But somewhere else was hard to come by for Anthony who never knew who his father was. While his sisters went to live with their aunt on their father’s side of the family, Anthony found himself homeless at 13 years old.
“Ultimately, it led me to sleeping at friends’ houses and in homeless shelters,” he said.
For years, Anthony was a nomad, bouncing from unfit home to unfit home, passed around among his mother’s relatives. For a while he stayed with his aunt, but she was under a lot of stress and kicked him out after he had behavior issues at school and she tried to attack him with a frying pan. He went to stay with another aunt and she threw him out after he wouldn’t give her more of the money he earned from mowing lawns on top of the rent he was already paying her to stay there. He ended up in a neighbor’s home, living with 14 other people. At first this family seemed loving, but then Anthony learned they were using his social security to draw welfare in his name, but were not sharing any of the money or food with him. When he questioned them on it, he was beat up and thrown out yet again.
Yet, throughout all this, Anthony stuck with his GED program at the Perry School. He stuck with it even after he ended up in a boy’s group home.
“From there, I had no family, I needed to make a life and take advantage of the services offered to us,” he said.
Anthony started working at Starbucks and Ruby Tuesdays, finished the GED program at 16, then had to wait two years to take the test because he needed to be 18 to get a GED. He failed the GED the first time, but the second time he took the test, he passed. After that, Anthony set his sights on his dream of self-sufficiency, his dream of a way out.
“I just got my GED, I didn’t want to stay in a homeless shelter,” Anthony said. “I thought, ‘I don’t want this life. I don’t want this lifestyle. I want to make something of myself. I wanted to go to college.’”
And make something of himself he did.
He spent his free time studying, and then entered a summer bridge program at Gallaudet University where for the first time in years he was around his peers – students of his own age in a learning environment. He made the most of his time there to study for the ACTs, using DVDs and YouTube videos to teach himself geometry, algebra, trigonometry and functions. It was while he was in the summer bridge program – and during a moment of doubt where Anthony questioned if he would make it – that he would be introduced to Paul Brunson through an advisor.
“He’d heard about my story and asked if there was one thing he could give me, what could it be?” Anthony said.
They were in a high end restaurant when Paul asked this and at first, jokingly, Anthony responded he wanted a Lamborghini. But he quickly got serious and asked Paul to be his mentor.
“I said I want you take me under your wing,” Anthony said. “He told me to come to this address tomorrow morning. It was somewhere in Arlington, Va. and it was actually his office. He gave me $100 bill off the gate. Told me to get’ yourself some slacks and shirt and a tie’ and I was like I don’t take money from people.”
But Paul insisted and Anthony went on to buy the first pair of slacks, button-up shirt and tie he’d ever owned in his life. From there, the wins kept coming for Anthony through his perseverance. He took the ACTs and was later accepted to Saint Augustine’s College (now university) in North Carolina. Paul drove the college freshman to the school and told Anthony he had the ability to “become the king of this thing,” alluding to the campus. Anthony would spend four-to-six hours a day in the campus library and ended up with a 4.0 GPA his freshman year. By sophomore year he was making friends and branching out. By Anthony’s junior year he was elected student body president on campus and in his senior year he graduated magna cum laude with a 3.7 GPA. His degree was in political science and pre-law.
Anthony, now working while taking a break from school, is determined to keep dreaming big dreams.
“Ultimate goal is to be president of the United States,” Anthony said. “I’m running for the position regardless if I’m going to lose because of how far I’ve come. Homeless at age 13 to magnum cum laude graduate from college. That’s crazy. That’s ridiculous.
“God has given me everything,” he said. “He’s given me everything. Everything I couldn’t have as a child I got in college. My life kept getting better each year in school.”
Anthony Ross is a dreamer, but how could he not be when his dreams came true.
Anthony’s story has already touched thousands of people. In the lead up to his graduation he asked friends on Facebook to help him find his siblings in hopes they could be at his graduation ceremony. The post was shared on Facebook and Instagram where more than 100,000 people saw it and passed it around. He didn’t find them in time for his graduation, but he did later, due to the posting, get in contact with his sisters again through a cousin on his grandfather’s side. Separated for years, reconciliation hasn’t been easy, but brother and sisters are slowly progressing.
The overwhelming response to his story led to Anthony writing his autobiography looking back at his from homeless to college graduate story. He’s currently trying to raise money to promote the book through the site GoFundMe. Let’s help Anthony reach his fundraising goal by supporting this amazing young man and his incredible dreams. Then, join #MentorMonday and become someone’s mentor or mentee!