Middle-School is a tough time for anyone. Starting a new school, making new friends, remembering your locker combination, all while taking classes and going through puberty. For Wallace, this time was different than a typical middle-schooler. Instead of coming home to parents, he came back every day to his number one fan, his grandma. Although his parents weren’t often around, Wallace found an extended family in After-School All-Stars. He continued working with the program long after he graduated. His connection was so strong it was hard to think of ASAS Orlando without Wallace. He was instrumental in the development of the drumline program that is still going strong. Wallace continues to lead by an example as an alum. Recently, he was awarded a full-ride scholarship to Southern Methodist College’s graduate program in Non-Profit Development. Everyone at After-School All-Stars is excited to follow his accomplishments.
Here is his own story, in his own words:
Over the past decade, I’ve been asked the same question over and over again. What is an All-Star? I’ve been asked by my peers in the program, by students I’ve mentored, and even by board members. I’ve answered the question during interviews, in speeches and I also wrote a college essay on it. I’ve given many different responses. An All-Star is an achiever, dreamer, nurturer, caretaker and a difference maker. All of these responses were correct in their way. However, I missed the most obvious answer… Me.
This month, I Wallace Wyatt III graduated from college with a 4.0 GPA and Summa Cum Laude. In doing so, I fulfilled the mission of the After-School All-Stars. I am the embodiment of this program’s purpose and the proof of its societal worth.
My story is like thousands of other students across the country. By all predictions, I was meant to be a failure. A forgotten statistic. There were too many obstacles to maneuver and no guidebook on how to get there. So what changed the outcome of a story that already felt written?
All-Stars came into my life while I was a middle school student. Back then I was dealing with depression that stemmed from a tumultuous relationship with my step-mother, lack of a consistent male role model in life and having to help my grandmother raise my three younger siblings. All while trying to figure out who I was and find a minute to just be a kid.
My All-Stars program was my safe haven. I got to be the kid instead of the adult. My counselors guided me through my mistakes and celebrated my achievements. They helped me imagine graduation and challenged me to do more than dream. All-Stars showed me what possibilities were out there and then gave me the tools to succeed.
In high school, All-Stars became the place for me to give back to my community. I served the program as a volunteer junior counselor. I began learning how to mentor students and created the first drum-line program in our chapter. The summer after my junior year, I was offered a job at the program site I had grown up in. I’ve worked there for the past five years and loved every day of it.
The organization has shaped who I am and what I want to do with my life. At the end of this summer, I will sadly say goodbye to my All-Stars family. I am moving to Dallas, Texas to attend Southern Methodist University. I received a full scholarship into the graduate program and will be pursuing dual master’s degrees in Business Administration and Theology. My goal in life is now to positively impact the lives of others and do what All-Stars did for me.
Looking back on my time as a student, volunteer and staff of the All-Stars I sometimes still wonder how I got here. My life and thousands of kids like me are FOREVER changed because of this organization. One of my business professors summed it up best to me. He said, “Wallace think of yourself as a stock. All-Stars put everything they had in you. Look at the return on investment they got. It’s immeasurable.”