On Friday, January 20th, our friend Troy Cameron was tragically gunned down while working at Walgreens. Troy was one of my first students at Byrd school when I began teaching nine years ago, and he made a long-lasting impact on me. In the non-profit world we often talk about “impacting” students and changing their lives. It was a two-way street in this case; Troy changed my life as well. When I began substitute teaching at Byrd I was only 22 years old (the same age that Troy was) and I found his 8th grade class challenging, to say the least. Troy, who was a leader in the class, was the first student to stop “messing with me” and encouraged the other students to show me respect as well. He also began helping me on field trips with a small soccer program I co-founded at the school, which ultimately grew into Urban Initiatives. He was a true leader and mentor within the Byrd community, for the students and for me as well.
We lost touch for several years after he moved on to high school, but we recently reconnected when I bumped into him working at Walgreens. He told me about how much he had loved the soccer program back in the day, and said he wanted to get involved in mentoring kids because he knew the value of a good role model.
He was focused on being the best dad he could for his new son and working hard at Walgreens. Last year he attended the Urban Initiatives Halloween Party and thanked everyone there for our work with Chicago’s youth.
Today, I would like to thank Troy for being one of the first people to inspire me to do what I do today.
This year at the Soccer Ball we are giving our first Mentor Coach award to Thomas Durr. Thomas was in kindergarten when Troy was in 8th grade. Today, like Troy was so many years ago, Thomas is an inspiration both to me and to the young kids who are involved in Urban Initiatives. In honor of Troy, we are naming the award the “Troy Cameron Mentor Coach Award” to keep his memory alive. Rest in peace, Troy. You will be missed.