- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Nick Young considers himself a rising star.
The St. Mary’s Ryken High School senior is not the only person who recognizes that potential. Entertainer Steve Harvey took the boy under his wing through a mentoring program and plans to help Young through college.
Harvey is best known in the entertainment world for his television and radio programs and as the current host of the “Family Feud” game show. The comic icon and his wife also support a philanthropic organization, the Steve and Marjorie Harvey Foundation, that includes mentoring African-American boys. Each summer Harvey hosts a mentoring camp at his ranch in Texas that mostly serves boys being raised in single-parent families. Young was chosen to attend the camp two years ago.
Since then Young has worked with Rushion McDonald, Harvey’s executive producer, who also got his start as a stand-up comedian. McDonald flies Young to his offices in Atlanta during breaks from school and over the summer to work as a personal assistant, Young said.
The St. Mary’s Ryken High School senior received a $10,000 scholarship from the United Negro College Fund and will be attending Morehouse College in Atlanta, thanks to encouragement from McDonald. Young, who was backstage with McDonald during the taping of Harvey’s television show, was called on stage to accept the award. “I wasn’t expecting to get a scholarship,” Young said. “It was just a complete surprise.”
Harvey added to the surprise by announcing he would cover the rest of Young’s four-year college expenses through his foundation. The show aired in late January. “We’ve got to ensure that these young people get a jump in life,” Harvey said during the show. “It’s our obligation. God blesses you to become a blessing.”
Harvey said that being a mentor is one of the most important things a person can do for youth.
“He said my only requirement was to give back. He’s really big on service,” Young said. “That’s all I could think about. I was going to be a servant for the rest of my life. And I don’t mind that.”
Young said he plans to major in economics and go on to get a law degree. He said he wants to be a judge advocate general for the military. Then he said he wants to write some books (“to make money”) and get involved in politics, inspired by President Barack Obama. “When I saw him get elected [for his first term] I started looking at the political process,” Young said. He was in eighth grade then.
Now, as a high school senior, he has dreams of taking his own seat in the Oval Office. “In 2036, I’m running for president,” Young said.
Young’s mother, Deirdre Neighbors, said her son does give off a “presidential aura,” and is always in control.
“He’s a very diplomatic person,” she said.
Young had a difficult childhood and was bullied in high school, he and his mother said. After changing schools several times, he enrolled at St. Mary’s Ryken as a junior. He has thrived there, his mother said.
As for her son going away to college this summer, Neighbors is not worried. He’ll do great, she said, and he will be close to his mentor McDonald’s office in Atlanta.
“I know I’ll be doing a lot of hard work” at Morehouse, Young said.
John Olon, Young’s high school philosophy teacher, described him as “very earnest and sincere,” and is especially outgoing.
“He makes himself at home, in a good way, wherever he goes,” Olon said.
Young said he is confident going into college, especially thanks to the education he received at St. Mary’s Ryken. “I feel overprepared,” he said.
Young’s interests extend beyond academics. He played football for St. Mary’s Ryken last year, and this year is again a member of the school’s mock trial club, which he especially enjoys.
Outside of school Young mentors other students and is involved with the Tau Lambda Lambda Southern Maryland Ques. He also volunteered at Waldorf’s volunteer fire department, near where he and his mother live. “That’s my passion,” he said.
The fire companies in Atlanta are manned by paid career firefighters, so Young contacted a volunteer firehouse outside of the city limits and has already arranged for to join once he goes to Morehouse. Working with firefighting crews offers a good way to balance the usual calm and controlled aspects of his life, he said.