February 07, 2018

Education can make all the difference

By Nigel Swaby

University Neighborhood Partners is one of the sponsors of this education-themed issue. When I first looked at the description of the house serving as an office for University Neighborhood Partners, I was taken aback. I knew this house. It was Steve’s house.

Steve was a boy I grew up with. We went to grade school together when I moved to Glendale at age eight. We played little league baseball together. We graduated from the same high school. I lost touch of Steve after high school. A few years ago I learned Steve had died in 2004 after killing his ex-wife and turning a gun on himself.

For a while Steve and I were good friends. I used to hang out at his house. His dad worked as a gardener and raised plants for the International Peace Gardens in greenhouses behind the home. Steve was an only child, adopted by a couple that were old enough to be his grandparents. Looking back now, it must have been challenging for all of them.

On the same little league team as Steve and I was Al. We went to the same junior high and high school. Al went to college at Dixie State and then Weber State. Al was drafted by the San Diego Chargers and ended up playing in a Super Bowl.

The Jordan Park little league closed down before I aged out of it and both Steve and I played baseball in the Glendale little league the last two years. Jimmy was a pitching ace on another team. It was a guaranteed strike out if you faced him at bat. He was pretty good at basketball too. After an impressive high school run, he became the star point guard at the University of Utah.

Another of our teammates was also a great pitcher. Not as good as Jimmy. He also led a different life than Jimmy. Richie has spent most of his life behind bars. He got into a group fight at a party and two people died. Since Richie was one of the last people seen kicking the victims, he got charged and convicted of murder. He was released from prison a few years ago.

All of us were west side boys. We went to the same schools but we wound up with very different lives. What do you think made the difference? For me, it was the guidance provided by Upward Bound which helped me define my post secondary education.

As our economy and the future of the next generation becomes more reliant on education, programs like Upward Bound and organizations like UNP become more critical for the success of the neighborhoods they serve. Everyone has potential and we know education and guidance lead to better outcomes. With continued educational initiatives specific to west side students, hopefully we’ll see more successful outcomes like Al and Jimmy than the tragedies of Richie and Steve.

Nigel Swaby is a Fairpark resident and serves as Chair of the River District Chamber of Commerce.