HOUSTON — ZaDarius Webber is a proud son of a Harris County single mother. He credits his own determination to his mother’s work ethic.
"I was very involved in school from elementary to high school, and everything cost," said Webber. “So she had to make some very hard sacrifices,” while never limiting her son’s ability to dream big for himself.
“When I was in the 4th grade, that’s when I knew I wanted to go to college,” recalled Webber. “President Obama had just been sworn in and I said, 'I want to get to that point.' And my teacher said, 'In order to get to that point, you have to go beyond high school.'”
Webber was focused on his financial ability to attend college. As a high school senior, he remembered planning down to the last dollar how he’d be able to pay for his higher education. He secured financial aid, grants and scholarships.
But just a few months before his first semester, Webber said Morehouse College raised tuition. The Harris County teen would need $7,000 more to pay for school.
“So I’m panicking because I had it all mapped out.”
In a ‘Hail Mary’ moment, Webber applied for a scholarship with the Greater Houston Frontiers Club. The Houston chapter of the national service organization invests in Harris County high school seniors who are committed to making the world better.
The club’s president, Donnell Cooper, explained the rigorous vetting process requires an essay, community service, transcripts and interviews.
“We’re immediately putting you on the job front interview,” said Cooper, “because we’re not talking about just the average John, the average Mary Jane. We’re talking about valedictorians.”
Donations from the community dictate how many students the frontiers club can support.
The application pool has quadrupled in size in the COVID-19 pandemic. More families need help paying for college.
Webber, who graduated from Klein ISD in the years ahead of the pandemic, was one of a few dozen who earned a Frontiers Club scholarship.
“First I say, 'Thank you,'" he said. "Because of your commitment you have put hundreds of students through college and changed their lives forever. And I want to encourage them, don’t stop giving.”
Webber is now a middle school teacher for KIPP Texas and is working to earn a master’s degree. He has plans to run for political office one day.
"I wholeheartedly believe when you pay it forward to someone else so they can change their life, they can then do change someone else’s life and the cycle just continues."
“That’s when you know you’re really paying it forward, when you see the full 360 circle of the seed being manifested,” said Cooper who attended Webber’s graduation from Morehouse College.
The Greater Houston Frontiers Club also matches a mentor with each scholarship recipient to underscore the community connection and commitment to the future of Houston.
The son of a single mother, who learned at an early age that with sacrifice can come reward, is a recipient of a scholarship driven by generous neighbors who are now reaping the benefits of their investment.
A scholarship driven by generous neighbors who are now reaping the benefits of their investment.