“Dream. Believe. Work. Now finish.”
That’s the advice Dereck Whittenburg gave Crosby Scholars at the Breakfast of Champions at Bermuda Run on May 17th. He follows that mantra in his life, and it’s the tag line in his DW Foundation.
Whittenburg is perhaps best known as the N.C. State University basketball player who passed the ball that resulted in the game-winning shot of the 1983 NCAA Championship.
“You’ve got to believe in yourself and believe you can achieve whatever you want to achieve if you put your mind to it,” he said. “It’s not going to be easy; you have to earn it. We survive and advance. We dream, believe, work. Now finish the job.”
Whittenburg is senior assistant to the head coach/director of player development at his alma mater, NCSU. In that role, he serves as a mentor for the Wolfpack and assists with player development. Whittenburg has served on the board of directors of the Jimmy V Foundation since its inception, and he founded the DW Foundation, which provides financial assistance to deserving students.
“Really my journey gets overshadowed by my accolades on the court and how well I did in sports,” Whittenburg said. “Really, the basis for all of my success is my character and my education.”
He grew up in Washington, D.C, with a dream of earning a college scholarship and playing professional basketball. In early May this year, he sat on the lawn of the White House and talked with President Obama, who he cited as another example of a young person with big dreams, who worked hard to succeed.
Whittenburg shared other advice with the students:
“Number one, if you work hard it only gives you a chance to be successful; if you don’t work hard you will fail,” he said.
“What you hang around is what you become. If you hang around successful people who want to achieve at a high level and be successful, you will be successful.”
He cautioned the high school seniors that 34 percent of all college students will not finish. He wants to help change that statistic, so his foundation provides scholarships to N.C. juniors and seniors who have a financial need. In the first two months, the DW Foundation raised $70,000 and gave away eight scholarships - none for athletes.
To the golfers and other guests, Whittenburg said, “You can raise money.” He cited the Jimmy V Foundation that has raised more than $150 million, and 100 percent goes to cancer research.
“We have more than we need; we have a lot more than we need,” he said. “We can give. In my quest and your quest - everyone involved in Crosby Scholars - let’s continue to support these students.”
In 12 years, the Crosby Scholars Invitational Golf Tournament has raised more than $2 million, and this year raised more than $310,461, with another $34,000 in-kind donations, a record total, according to Trent Jernigan, chair of the Crosby Scholars Board of Directors.
In 2015-2016, more than 9,700 students enrolled in grades 6-12 participated in Crosby Scholars, and they logged 107,000 hours of community service, Jernigan said. Last year, graduates attended 117 different colleges and universities. In the past eight years, 100 percent of Crosby Scholars seniors have graduated from high school, and 98 percent enrolled immediately in college.
Crosby Scholars has awarded more than $5.1 million in Last Dollar grants and last year awarded more than $600,000. Crosby Scholars helped students find and leverage an additional $50 million in scholarships and grants from other sources, Jernigan said.
Honorary co-chairs Kathryn and Mary Crosby were joined by several other family members this year, and Kathryn Crosby joked that her late husband Bing said, “It never rains on a golf course.”
The day’s torrential downpour didn’t dampen the spirits of more than 275 attendees at the Crosby Scholars Breakfast of Champions, but it canceled the golf tournament for the first time in its 12 years of operation. Golfers were provided gift certificates for a game of golf and a lunch at Bermuda Run later in the year.
A former Crosby Scholar, the Reverend Clark Chilton of Clemmons United Methodist Church, provided the invocation. Mayor Allen Joines welcomed the guests and congratulated the scholars.
Walkertown High School senior Hector Sanchez shared his story of determination.
“I always felt different because I was born prematurely,” Sanchez said. “I am thankful for my life and have learned to never take life for granted.” When he was 10 months old, he was diagnosed with quadriplegic cerebral palsy. When he started school, he was unable to speak.
In preschool he was given a computer, and eventually he learned to mimic the voice of the computer. Now he can speak without the help of technology. His teachers at Walkertown have asked him to talk to new students so that he can share a message about not making excuses.
“My background and my disability helped to mold me,” he said. “My true identity lies not in my disability, but in my passion for life and learning. This is my triumph. Do not confuse my physical state with my intelligence.”
Sanchez was awarded the Jessica Hill Davis Memorial Scholarship and will attend UNC Greensboro in the fall.
By Kathy Norcross Watts