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Lead By Example

March 1, 2018

How can someone turn tragedy to triumph? There must be a fire within that fuels that person to keep going. Deandre Pendergrass is the first person to go to college in his family and the Charlotte Housing Authority Scholarship Fund (CHASF) was proud to make his dream come true. So, what made Deandre want to succeed?

Born and raised in Charlotte, Deandre began his life in the foster care system along with his twin sister Lashanta and older brother Sammie. When Deandre turned two years old he and his siblings where adopted by Mary Pendergrass, a single mother with an older daughter named Dana. She owned her own daycare, exposing Deandre to the joy of children. Mary always made sure to stress the importance of a high school diploma and that education would be the ticket his success.  She was a role model for her children and her heart was filled with love for them.  Sadly, tragedy struck when Mary passed away when Deandre was in the eighth grade.  By then, Sammie was older and had already moved out, but Deandre and Lashanta were still children and faced the possibility of losing their family and going back into the foster care system. Wanting to keep her brother and sister together, their big sister Dana adopted them both. She knew her mother would not want her brother and sister to go back in to the system.

Dana was a part of Charlotte Housing Authority’s (CHA) Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8), that is how Deandre found out about the CHASF. It was always Mary’s goal for him to graduate high school, but it was his goal to graduate from college. “I wanted to go to college, because I would be the first to do it in my family,” said Deandre. The loss of his adopted mother added fuel for him to reach his goals. Working hard throughout the years at Independence High School, Deandre got accepted into his dream school Morehouse University, but opted to stay local and go to North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (N.C. A&T) for financial reasons to study social work.

With everything Deandre had been through, he spent most of his freshman year to himself… until he joined the gospel choir. He started seeing all the ways he could grow at N.C. A&T.  Throughout college Deandre saw himself opening up more socially. He ran for Mr. Black North Carolina, he won Mr. Black Greensboro and this year he running for Mr. A&T. He started his own organization called Kingdom Men, a group of men who create bible studies, mentorships and prayer groups. Deandre has worked for several organizations such as the YMCA, Trio Upward Bound and Boys and Girls Club. He even was a tour guide at his university.

It is now Deandre’s senior year and it has been a rough start for him. His older brother Sammie died 2017 creating another huge loss in his life. Even though he thinks about him all the time he cannot stop pushing forward, “My older brother was my biggest supporter in college, he would call and check on me and let me know how proud he was. I can still see him and remember him telling me ‘you cannot give up’. I have so many people watching me,” said Deandre.  Graduating with a degree in social work he wants to make a difference in the lives of children like himself.  He knows he was blessed with an amazing and loving family, but he wants to look out for children who may not be so lucky.  His future goals are to work for Teach For America when he graduates, to teach children and be a positive role model, but he’s not stopping there. Deandre also wants to create policies for kids in the foster system, so they won’t have to go through the same things he went through.

When Deandre walks across the graduation stage this year, he will set a strong example for his young people in his family to follow. “I tell my nieces and nephews all the time, ‘you can do anything you put your mind to’, I don’t believe in excuses,” said Deandre passionately. Continuing to lead by example CHA could not be more proud of Deandre and the hard work he has put in over the years. We know his family, faith and experience will continue to fuel him.


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