Grateful to the Dillon Henry Foundation.
by Christina Quarles.
Seemingly only yesterday, I remember waking up at 5 a.m. to catch the school bus from South-Central L.A. to Pacific Palisades, California. (Unfortunately, the schools in my local neighborhood were under-resourced and my parents wanted me to have an equal opportunity to be prepared for college.) I remember rushing to stand in line at nutrition to buy the delicious chocolate-chip cookies, and then quickly going to Mrs. Capelliís fourth-period journalism class. As The Tidelineís newspaper opinion editor, I would read and re-read articles. My day would end with drama/theatre practice with Ms. Iannessa and other thespian students. It was there I was fortunate enough to meet and befriend Dillon Henry. Although I was not his closest friend, we shared a common love for acting.
Dillon was incredibly charismatic and lit up the room with his vibrant smile. On July 6, 2007, tragedy befell the Henry family when Dillon died in a car crash on Sunset Boulevard at age 17. This devastation shook his family and the Palisades community.
In honor of
their son, his family created the Dillon Henry Foundation to share Dillonís
dream of making the world a better place through acts of compassion, charity
and community building. The foundation has built and completed the Dillon Henry
Community Health Clinic, which provides healthcare for impoverished areas throughout
the Central African Republic. But the Henrysí generosity does not stop there.
In 2008, the
Dillon Henry Foundation chose a group of college-bound Palisades High seniors,
and provided them with a $2,500 annually renewable scholarship. I was fortunate
enough to be one of those seniors. In addition to the scholarship, the foundation
helped me participate in international volunteer work in New Zealand in 2010.
All told, they have provided me with $15,000 for my education. My family could
not afford to send me to college nor pay for my travel abroad. So I am overwhelmed
with gratitude, joy and humility.
On June 17,
I graduated from the University of California, Riverside with a bachelorís degree
in political science. The Dillon Henry Foundation certainly helped financially;
however, their compassion and generosity has deeply touched me and shaped the
core of what I believe, "To whom much is given, even much more is required
I too hope that I can one day assist and have an impact on individuals, families and communities as the Henrys have, and continue to do. I am currently seeking work as a behavioral specialist in the Inland Empire while interning with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at UC Riverside. I am also honored that I have become a board member of the Dillon Henry Foundation.
In light of
this achievement, I realize that I stand on the shoulders of giants. My paternal
grandmother, Carrie Quarles, through a marriage of 45 years, raised her 16 children
living in South-Central L.A. She instilled the values of hard work, faith and
endurance in her family, and one day dreamed that a future generation would
excel in higher education. My maternal great-great grandmother, Martha Jane
Blackburn, was the first African-American woman to graduate from Ohio University,
in 1916. Her daughter, Jeane Burch, and granddaughter Linda B. Jones, were public
school teachers in low-income communities. These women paved the way for me
Dillon Henry family, despite losing a wonderfully talented son, never gave up
on the power of hope and love. We are familiar with the African proverb that
says, "It takes a village to raise a child." The Henry family is without
question a part of my village, having helped to shape me into the young woman
I am today. Thanks to their faithful generosity, in combination with the love
and sacrifice of my family from generations past, I have the honor of calling
myself a UCR alumna. I can proudly say that I am not the statistical product
of my neighborhood, which is in a vicious cycle of oppression created by drugs,
gang violence, teen pregnancy, a lack of resources and unequal public education
I am the fulfillment of my all grandmotherís dreams. I am the continuation of Dillon Henryís legacy. I am a dwarf, humbly standing upon the shoulders of giants.
Dillon Henry Foundation