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Teen who reached out hand to pal needs help with college tuition

David Peake (left) JasRoberts

David Peake (left) and Jason Roberts

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Updated: August 12, 2013 11:47AM

There is always something to do in a garden.

After the digging come the planting, the weeding and the watering.

In the past, I’ve not had any success gardening.

At my home in Maywood, the ground was full of rocks. No matter how much “Miracle-Gro” I used, the flowers came up puny.

But my next-door neighbor had a garden so bountiful, his backyard looked like a lush resort. Of course, it took a lot of work. But you could measure his love for that yard by the time he spent toiling in it.

Before summer’s end, my neighbor had transformed a barren plot into an oasis.

That’s the hope that connects most of the people who responded to my June 30 column about Jason Roberts, 16, and David Peake 18, two recent graduates of Urban Prep Academy.

Their story is exceptional — not only because both young men are headed to top-notch universities in the fall — but also because they formed a brotherhood that is so desperately needed these days.

When David’s family became homeless, Jason’s family took him in so that he could finish his last year of high school at Urban Prep Academy.

When his guest was named valedictorian, it ended Jason’s dream of being tapped for the honor. But Jason was proud that at least the award was in the “house.”

And when David snagged a coveted Gates Millennium Scholarship — which will enable him to attend Georgetown University, while Jason has to worry about how to cover the gap between his scholarship and the tuition at the University of Pennsylvania — Jason expressed disappointment, but not bitterness.

“Right now I’m just trying to find any scholarships or internships or anything that can help,” Jason told me. Meanwhile, he did land a part-time job at Cuttie’s Yacht Club. The yacht offers chartered cruises on Chicago’s lakefront and is docked at the 31st Street Harbor.

Cuttie Bacon, the yacht’s owner, has offered to hold a fund-raiser later this month to help Jason.

“These are fantastic young men. Both of them. We really need to do a lot of them,” said the former educator.

“I think it is important to let people know that we have these kind of young men out here. We have heard enough about the other kind. We need to keep talking bout how well these young men are doing, how smart they are, how well they do their jobs,” Bacon continued. “We are overshadowed by the ones doing negative things.”

I’ve received several inquiries from readers asking where they may send donations to help Jason raise the additional $30,000 he will need to bridge the tuition gap at University of Pennsylvania.

“I can’t even describe the outpouring I’ve received from people who want to help,” said Jason’s mother, Jan Kruel Roberts. “It brings me to tears.”

Last weekend, David flew to Washington D.C., to begin his transition to college. He sent her this text message:

“Thank you for everything you’ve done for me and my family. I can’t begin to even describe how great of a person you are. I truly think of you as a mother, and just as a son does, I thank God for you. I would say I hope everything goes well for you [and] Jason, but I already know it will. Both of you are inspirational.”

Because we are bombarded with negative images of black youths, it is easy to forget that there are many young black men who are doing things the right way.

The relationship between Jason and David is an example of what young black men should be about if they are to lift up their families and their communities.

“We need to wrap our arms around them, support them and donate to their cause. We can’t just tell their stories. They need thousands of dollars to realize their dreams,” Bacon pointed out.

This year, I finally planted a garden that seems to be heading in the right direction.

Still, it looks like some of the plants are struggling.

But — and this is the one thing I now know — all that weeding and watering is going to pay off.

If you want to help Jason. you may send your donation to: Jason V. Roberts, c/o Chicago Patrolmen’s Federal Credit Union, 2766 W. 111th St., Chicago, IL 60655

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