Knowing our interest in matters related to Dartmouth College, a reader alerted us to Drew Harwell’s moving St. Petersburg Times story on Bennie Niles IV. Bennie is a rising freshman in the Dartmouth class of ’15. Harwell’s story is that of a young man from a poor neighborhood who overcame adversity to gain admission to an elite college.
The most striking if least surprising part of the story is the role played by Bennie’s two parents in bringing him to this point in his life. Harwell highlights their role at the top of the story:
It’s 5 a.m. in South Greenwood, and Bennie Niles IV is alone. The house is dark and still. Outside, the neighborhood sleeps. Bennie swings his feet onto the carpet. He has work to do. Bennie is 18. He’s spent much of his life in this bedroom. His parents, both 43, would not let their firstborn run outside with the neighborhood boys. They kept him here, on his own.
They expected greatness. Bennie’s father was an all-state linebacker who nearly broke Dunedin High’s tackle record. His mother, Tandala, was resolute and studious, earning straight A’s at Florida A&M. When Bennie was in second grade, Tandala bought him a Power Ranger action figure, but he was so excited he didn’t say thank you. His dad took it back, as a lesson in manners.
The video below is a good companion to Harwell’s excellent article.