There were three distinctly different African-American faces representing the Gesu School during its annual gala at the Hyatt Bellevue last Thursday, May 3.
Those faces were graduating eighth-grade student Darius Williams, longtime maintenance engineer Vernon Johns, and the school’s president and CEO, Bryan Carter of Germantown.
The trio represented the students, staff and administration of the school, which serves low and moderate-income students from the North and Northwest areas.
While Williams was excited about the recent gala, he has his sights set on his June 13 commencement exercise. Shortly after graduation he will participate in the elite Physician Scientist Training Program for the second consecutive summer. In the fall, he will be a freshman at the Prep Charter School of Math, Science and Technology.
“(We celebrated) the achievements of students such as Darius and in recognizing Bob McAlaime, Darius’ sponsor, for his numerous contributions to Gesu and its children,” Carter said.
When the school sent out promotional materials inviting those to attend its sold-out fundraising gala, there was a video footage of the man the Gesu family calls simply “Mr. Vernon.” Johns too was singled out among those who contribute to the inspiring environment of the Gesu School.
Finally, when Carter stepped into the helm position of the Gesu School last summer he brought with him a Catholic grade school and Jesuit high school background.
A native of Cleveland, the Northwest Philadelphia resident grew up in a single parent household with his five brothers. He went on to earn his bachelor’s degree in political science and business management from Case Western Reserve University.
“When I visited Gesu and saw the discipline, structure, the students’ composure and the teachers’ dedication to the children it reminded me of my childhood,” Carter said. “People need to understand what’s going on behind these walls. This school is transforming lives and providing children with the opportunity to succeed.
“It’s important for people to see that an investment in successful models like Gesu is a shared investment in our future,” he added. “Children in disadvantaged situations come in behind academically and turn it around for the best possible start. They leave as better students more interested in their future, and go on to have success in high school and college.”