Anthony Roberson, a friend of  Hope High Dollars for Scholars, shares his  remarks at the induction into the Dr. Martin Luther King Hall of Fame at City Hall, Providence R.I. 1/28/19

 

 

"LIFE'S MOST PERSISTENT AND URGENT QUESTION IS, 'WHAT ARE YOU DOING FOR OTHERS?' - Martin Luther King

Dr. King embodied this calling - do for others.  He put his life and that of his family in peril in numerous ways, financially, emotionally, physically and most certainly his freedom for the betterment of others.  

As a Providence Police Detective in the Youth Services Bureau I have seen my share of the results of doing nothing.  I have seen children, very young children, adolescents who suffer from complex issues who face overwhelming odds from the difficulties of home and at school.  The needs of these children are vast, thinking about it can be intimidating, "how can I help?" 

I know the poor choices these at risk kids can make and they can be self-destructive.  I observed in many of these children a lack of role models, particularly male role models.  I believed that if I could introduce them to successful male role models who resembled them in a positive light it would perhaps inspire them, make them feel more confident.

 

Anthony Roberson with Christina Ricci

 

It was important to me to develop a program, something that would have an effect, but not overwhelm them - or me.  I didn't want to commit to something that became so daunting that it could not be sustained.  It is important to make the commitment and be able to follow through, after all disappointing these kids was not an option.

 

I wanted to connect the kids with real people who had achieved success, I wanted them to believe that they too could be successful.  I have been very fortunate throughout my adult life and my career as a police officer to meet many successful men who reflect a vast diversity of race and profession.  I wanted to put them together with these kids.  What if at the start of the school day these men came and greeted the students as they arrived at school.  Would that have an effect?  It would be relatively easy for volunteers, they could do it on their way to work, it was a minimal commitment that could have a positive outcome, for them as well as the kids and they too could answer the question - "what are you doing for others".    There was minimal investment and the outcome could, would be tremendous. 

 

Five years ago I established the "HANDSHAKE INITIATIVE".  I approached friends, acquaintances from all walks of life and asked them if they would be willing to occasionally take time out of their morning and meet me at a specified school to welcome the students as they came into the school building, give them a handshake, a high five a fist pump whatever worked for a particular kid.   The response was overwhelming, these volunteers did want to do something for others, responding to Dr. King's call for action. 

 

At times the number of men has passed twenty five, lining up row by row, smiling, extending well wishes for a good day, these lawyers, police officers, business owners teachers, firefighters, community leaders . . . well you get it.  The response from the students has been nothing short of amazing.  It has really been a blessing, to start the day off with a simple gesture from someone they are not used to seeing saying "have a great day".  Some students don't know what to make of it, they arrive and the look of fear or dread melts into a smile even if it is just for a moment.  Someone cares, someone took the time for me.  The volunteers treat the students with the utmost respect, sometimes greeting them with "good morning ladies, good morning gentlemen".   

 

And of course as an added benefit, we all know the old adage, "it is more blessed to give than to receive" the volunteers get as much out of it as the kids.  I cannot thank them enough for the time they take out of their schedules to participate.  They do not sit on the sidelines, they are up and helping, it does not cost a dime.  It makes a difference to these kids.  It's a blessing. 

 

It is my desire to continue the HANDSHAKE INITIATIVE and to expand it, both with more volunteers and by going to more schools.  Dr. King became a leader of a movement to help others, and I hope that by answering the question "what are you doing for others" I have taken my vision and expanded it to doing something good for these kids, for others.

 

I am deeply grateful and humbled to be selected for this award.  I hope to follow Dr. Kings lead by example to others and compelling others to do the same.