An academic-minded athlete and young man of many talents, Ralph Brown, 14, may not be your typical teenager.
Brown is the 2014 recipient of the Young Dreamers Award, one of three awards presented in January during the 2014 MLK Jr. Ecumenical Program to a youth who is actively making a difference in the Newton County community. He was nominated by a number of people in the community, including his pastor, teachers, and mentors.
In a nomination letter, one of Ralphs’s teachers at Newton County Theme School at Ficquett, Holly Kaas, wrote, "He is an incredibly talented young man in a number of areas and takes on any challenge he encounters. Ralph has chosen a path in life of success, hard work, dedication and service."
His mentor, Darrin E. Wright, an assistant professor at Clark Atlanta University and member of the Knights of Pythagoras Georgia—a mentoring program for young men -- said in a letter, "Ralph has demonstrated consistently that he is a hard-working, ambitious, purpose-driven person for his age."
Those are just two statements from those who have met the teen and nominated him for the award. Ralph said receiving the Young Dreamers Award meant a lot to him because it helped him realize that he can accomplish any dream that he may have.
In addition to the Young Dreamers Award, Ralph has received a number of other titles and accolades.
His grandmother, Marie Brown, said her grandson has competed in and won awards in the Newton County Spelling Bee, a science fair, a geography bee, the Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl and an oratorical contest. He was also the CHAMP Student of the Year with the Newton County Sheriff’s Office.
In addition to his honors, Ralph recently served as a page in the Georgia State Senate, shadowing District 43 Sen. Ronald B. Ramsey Sr. for a day; he was a part of the Duke Talent Identification Program (TIP) for gifted young people; and has managed an all-A average in school.
"He’s competitive," his grandmother said. "He’s an academic athlete, and he encourages the other kids. But, it’s been good. He keeps his mom running and keeps us on our toes coaching and keeping up with him."
Ralph said he enjoys reading and writing. At age 9, he wrote his own book, "Ralph’s Words of Wisdom." Though he enjoys spelling and creatively writing narratives and short stories, he said his favorite subjects in school are history and social studies.
"I like the events that take place, the people and the dates," he said.
When it comes to extracurricular activities, Ralph definitely relishes involvement in a number of programs at the Theme School. He is on the News team, and he’s the BETA Club president, a member of the Drama team, yearbook staff, and the reading bowl team. He plays the trumpet in the school band, is a member of the Kiwanis Builder Club, the Robotics Club, and he’s a Peer Helper.
Ralph also participates in a number of ministries at his church, Poplar Hill A.M.E. in Covington, which include helping during Vacation Bible School and singing in the youth choir. In the community, he volunteers with Keep Covington-Newton Beautiful and he has helped with a Potato Drop project at Oxford College, which helps to distribute food to families in need.
Though he is involved in a number of activities, Ralph’s said becoming an architect is his No. 1 goal in life.
"My main focus is architecture and really building affordable homes so that everyone can have a place to live," he said. "That’s one dream I hope to achieve when I grow up."
He said he became interested in building things at a young age. He said to build then, he would use wooden bricks and Lego blocks and he said that he used to build trains with complex railways. But now, he builds buildings and structures with Legos.
"It gives me a chance to come up with new ideas and recreate old buildings and establishments," he said. "I build a variety of stuff, but the best thing I’ve built so far has to be a museum."
Ralph’s mom, Paulette, and his grandmother, Marie, both said Ralph strives to be successful because he has a lot of concern for the way young African-American males are portrayed in the media.
In a letter, Paulette wrote, "He often says that just because they say negative things, we (African American males) don’t have to make them so."
"A lot of times, I see on the news how young men are arrested and killed and sent to jail and things like that," Ralph said. "I really don’t like that representation, so I try to steer away from that."
Ralph will attend Eastside High School next year. He said he’s excited about meeting new people and being in a new atmosphere. But he said, "The biggest fear would be not letting other influences take me away from what I have to do in order to get my schoolwork done and my school business done."
In his spare time, Ralph said he likes to go to the movies and watch his favorite television shows, "Psych," on the USA Network and "The Big Bang Theory," on CBS. Though he is an only child, he said he also likes to play with his younger cousin, Trey, 3.
Ralph said his motto in life is, "Plan for success—Put God first," a saying that he proves through his academic excellence.
"I am very proud of my son. He is a hard worker and he is respectful of everyone he meets," his mom Paulette said. "He is a prime example of how hard work pays off."