Every summer, a rowdy group of boys, ranging in age from 10-16, arrive on the Floyd campus for an adventure most of them never forget. In fact, some of them keep coming back until they’re too old to participate. But that doesn’t always stop them. Some transition into camp counselors. Demaurius Morgan is one such student. His journey has been circuitous, but he has returned to Georgia Highlands time and again.
But let’s start his story at the beginning. Morgan grew up in Rome, attending Rome city schools. He lived in a neighborhood that might have influenced him to take a different path from the one he chose. But he had a very strong mother, grandmother, an involved stepfather and a neighborhood friend/mentor a few years older than he who made sure he kept his grades up and his mischief quotient down. He also gained a whole support system of mentors/educators the summer he arrived on the campus of GHC for the National Youth Sports Program, a federally funded program to expose children to options they might not otherwise see.
The activities and classes he participated in opened his imagination to a world of possibilities. The relationships he forged with camp counselors and faculty members brought him back year after year, until finally, he was too old for the program. So like many camp alumni before him, he returned as a counselor. Funding for the NYSP camp was withdrawn in 2005, but GHC had seen verifiable evidence of the positive impact it had on the children who came through the program. Students who had been adrift – or even verging on following a path of drugs or crime – had found alternatives to the only life they knew. One became a law enforcement officer. Another studied law and became an attorney. Still others pursued a college career and turned their entrepreneurial impulses to profit.
These students aren’t just numbers. They are living examples of how important mentoring and involvement can be in an impressionable child’s life. The faculty and staff and the visiting experts who had contributed to NYSP activities at GHC were determined that they would not just let a program with such a proven track record die a silent death. Everyone came together to continue this strong tradition. The Rome/Floyd County business community donated money, food and other important elements. The 100 Black Men of Rome and Northwest Georgia contributed untold hours of time, and recruited both campers and instructors. Thus out of the ashes of NYSP the GHC Foundation Camp was created.
As that transformation was taking place, Morgan was a mere three years away from graduating at Rome High School. He was constantly monitored by his neighborhood friend from NYSP. Once he received his high-school diploma, he needed to earn money to go to school. He wanted to attend GHC, so he enrolled and studied while he worked. Although he began as a full-time student, he had to transition to part-time because of his job. Still, he worked as a counselor at the summer Foundation Camps. He wanted to inspire children as he had been inspired. And he has.
In two more semesters Morgan will leave Georgia Highlands to attend a four-year institution – probably the University of West Georgia or Kennesaw State University. As summers came and went on the campus of GHC he saw the enormous difference good mentors could make on children. He decided to combine his love of sports and his desire to inspire, so he plans to earn a baccalaureate in physical education and coach basketball.
He will make a superb teacher, for he exhibits a fierce, quietly tenacious diligence. In high school he very badly wanted to play basketball, but was told he’d never make the junior varsity team. But practice and focus paid off. He made that team as well as the varsity team, and played all through high school.
When he heard that GHC would begin an athletics program with basketball, he was eager to play for the Chargers. He began as a walk-on, but by the team’s third game overall and the first of the conference season against East Mississippi he walked onto the court as a defensive guard. He played all season. Because the rest of the team were all freshmen, they sometimes lacked maturity, concentration and perspective. As a student in his 20s, Morgan was able to bring those qualities to the group.
Demaurius Morgan represents the story of so many at GHC: a determined student who overcomes challenges to meet his academic, personal and career goals. When told he could never achieve a goal to which he aspired, he simply tried harder until he conquered it. These are the character traits that have built our country. They are what make our students and the GHC mission that supports them noble. To all the Demaurius Morgans on all campuses, we salute you.