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Friday, October 01, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
Three friends escaped streets to prosper as "Three Doctors"
By Lornet Turnbull
They spoke about the lure of the streets, of growing up in single-parent homes and about being ridiculed for getting good grades.
Three guys from Newark, N.J., who in high school made a pact to stand by one another through fistfights and brushes with the law, yesterday stood as 31-year-old doctors before a group of mostly black male teenagers to show them that they, too, can succeed.
The Three Doctors, as physicians Sampson Davis and Rameck Hunt and dentist George Jenkins are known, told about 100 students from Seattle-area middle and high schools that education was their escape path from the ghetto.
Jenkins and Davis still live in Newark's inner city, not because they have to, but so other troubled youngsters can find role models just down the street.
"Every exam on which you get a good grade will pay dividends in the future," Jenkins told the Seattle teens. "Use our story as evidence that it can be done. All of us had various issues with the law, with family. We know. We've been there."
The men, who established The Three Doctors Foundation as a way to help at-risk kids, were keynote speakers at the 5th Annual Costco Scholarship Breakfast at Seattle University earlier in the day. The Washington Education Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and The Breakfast Club arranged their chat with the students.
Their message of hope resonated with 14-year-old Jarren Tucker, a freshman at Cleveland High School.
Tucker, who said he is being raised in a home without his father, wants a different kind of life for himself. He's felt the sting of ridicule from friends when he's told them he wants to go to college and become a lawyer.
"You listen to these guys and it makes you think 'their life is not so different from mine.' "
The Three Doctors said Newark's poverty, blight and crime were part of their daily struggle.
The three met in high school. One day in 1990, they were cutting class to avoid a substitute teacher when they ducked into the library and happened upon a health and sciences seminar being conducted by Seton Hall University.
Davis, who dreamed of being a baseball player, recalled that he promptly fell asleep.
"For us, college was a long shot," he said, and they couldn't imagine how their parents would pay for it.
But Jenkins was enthralled and by the end of the day had convinced Davis and Hunt that they were destined to become doctors. They made a pact to stick with one another through college and beyond and do what it took to succeed.
Other friends thought they were crazy. The only black doctor any of them knew of was the fictional character Bill Cosby played on TV. Some teachers even told them they wouldn't succeed.
But to each other they were saying, "yeah, we can do it," Jenkins said.
Davis, Hunt and Jenkins attended Seton Hall University and after graduating, went on to the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. The cost of college for the trio was offset by financial assistance, including grants.
Hunt, the rapper of the group, described what he calls an alternate universe in some inner-city neighborhoods, where good is bad, up is down and where getting good grades in school is something that earns taunts, while beating up someone wins praise.
"You can flip that on its ear," he told the audience.
He talked about the high odds of becoming what he knows many of them want to be famous ballplayers and musicians.
"You can be a rapper. There's nothing wrong with being an educated rapper," Hunt said.
That's all Rovelle Brown, 16, has ever wanted to be.
The Cleveland High sophomore, with a black-and-white bandanna tied across his forehead, said he plans to go to college but eventually wants to make rap music.
Brown said he's being raised by his godfather and can relate to the doctors' story. "I'm living without both my mom and dad," he said. "I figured out this is something I gotta do on my own."
Lornet Turnbull: 206-464-2420 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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