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Posted April 10, 2015

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Making students’ dreams a reality

Read Superintendent Brad Winter's column that ran in the Tuesday, April 14. Albuquerque Journal.

Brian Ferguson remembers the call as if his cell phone were buzzing right now. Right this minute.

It was August 2004 and Ferguson recalls sitting in a classroom at the University of Arizona. The number on the screen was unfamiliar; an international number from out of the blue.

“I answered it,” Ferguson said, “and it was Chris, calling me from a pay phone in Iraq. I could hear gunshots and activity in the background, but he didn’t want to talk about that. He wanted to talk about how I was doing. That moment made it real for me.”

Chris was Chris Adlesperger. He wasn’t far different from a lot of kids at Albuquerque Public Schools – cheerful, industrious, artistic, athletic. When he and Brian Ferguson, childhood buddies, walked across the stage to receive their Eldorado High diplomas in 2003, you’d probably never have guessed that Adlesperger would soon be a U.S. Marine, let alone a war hero.

But he was.

Ferguson wanted to honor that memory – and that life. That’s why he just instituted the Christopher Adlesperger Memorial Scholarship this year at Eldorado, a $500 award aimed at helping a senior who’s interested in the military, regardless of whether he or she wants to enlist, attend a military school or go to college in the ROTC program.

Adlesperger was killed in a firefight in Fallujah in December 2004. The term “hero” isn’t a stretch; he was awarded the Navy Cross and nominated for the Medal of Honor. But Ferguson hopes the scholarship keeps Chris’ life – not his death – alive forever.

All around APS, there are stories like those of Brian and Chris: Family members, friends, colleagues, business owners who understand that paying it forward is a beautiful way of honoring the past, present – and future. So, as we near the graduation season, I thought it might be good to mention some of the many people whose echoes still ring true today.

Camilla Rowe matters. She was a teacher at Eisenhower Middle School for more than 20 years – one of those gifted educators who could incorporate material as outwardly disparate as music and drama into her lessons on American history. She died in 2004 from a rare form of cancer and, for more than a decade, her family members, colleagues and friends have contributed to an annual $1,200 scholarship (to learn more, go to www.camillarowe.org) that goes to a graduating senior at La Cueva or Eldorado. You should see the joy on recipients’ faces as they receive the honor – they burst with the kind of pride that can’t be manufactured or faked.

Thanks to Camilla, their journeys to college just got a lot easier. Many are now professionals – proof that one life’s work always affects another’s.

Steven Turner matters and, fortunately, he’s still with us. The owner of a small Albuquerque business and an APS graduate, Turner and his company BEStaff, Inc., have created a small scholarship for district seniors who’ve overcome hurdle after hurdle to get their diplomas. A year ago, he and his committee were so moved by the nominations they received that they actually put more money into the scholarship fund so they could help students at Highland and Manzano get to college.

Gracie Sellers, Richard Oliver and Jewell Brown matter. Scholarships are named in their honor at tradition-laden Manzano – three of a whopping 11 that are awarded at the school each year.

You get the point. Most of our high schools have scholarship funds. You could help by learning more and perhaps contributing to one at a school of your choice. Or, maybe, there’s someone you want to honor and you could start a fund to help a student who dreams of big things.

Remember, the future – and maybe the past – are right now. Right this minute.

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