That’s where Pamela Howard feared her son, Malik Ferrell, would end up after years of struggles at different schools in Jacksonville.
She couldn’t afford to let that happen. Malik needed a caring environment, especially after he and his family were rocked by the murder of his older brother, Derrell Baker.
Pamela had been searching for the right fit for Malik – four different schools in four years.
Finally a friend told her about the Step Up For Students scholarship, which allowed her to send him to The Potter’s House Christian Academy.
(Step Up For Students publishes this blog, and helps administer the tax credit scholarship program in Florida.)
That’s where Malik’s life unraveled – and where he ultimately put it all back together.
“Having the opportunity to go to a private school helped get him on track,” Pamela said. “I cannot even tell you the difference it made in his life.”
At his neighborhood school, Malik made mostly D’s in second grade, then mostly F’s in third grade, which he had to repeat.
Three years and three schools later, at the age of 11, he got a fresh start at The Potter’s House.
Then the unthinkable happened.
Just weeks after Malik enrolled, Derrell, 17, was killed in a drive-by shooting. Police had no suspects. There were no arrests.
Pamela was working full-time at Blue Cross Blue Shield, taking complaints in the executive department. The grief and stress overwhelmed her, and the mother of five went on disability. She now works part-time doing billing at McKesson.
“Seeing my momma cry and my sisters cry, it was … it was just a lot to deal with,” Malik said. “That was my only big brother, so there was nothing for me to look up to.”
Derrell was everything to Malik – best friend, football hero, protector, disciplinarian, role model. Continue Reading →