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Saturday, Dec 20, 2014
Derrick Brooks

Those affected by Derrick Brooks share stories

Tribune staff
Published:   |   Updated: July 28, 2014 at 11:56 PM

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Some of the young men and women whose lives have been touched by former Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Derrick Brooks share their stories.

*****

U.S. Army Sgt. Carla Holding

Brooks Bunch alumnus

“I first met Derrick at the Belmont Heights Boys & Girls Club. He just came up to me and asked what my name was.

“He wears so many hats in my life. He’s my father, my mentor, my big brother, my financial provider at times. One quote I live by, that Derrick taught me, is that hands that serve are holier than lips that pray. It’s not until you serve that you show your true character.

“I came out of the Central Park projects. My mom had nine kids. None of my older siblings ever graduated high school. So college was going to the moon. It took Derrick telling me, ‘No, you choose your own destiny.” He told me knowledge is power.

“I graduated from Florida State. I got financial help through Brooks Bunch and Derrick’s charities. I’m working on my MBA at Saint Leo. I was the first one in my family to graduate high school. I’ve got five siblings behind me, watching me, and they all graduated high school. My sister just graduated from USF in May. All my younger siblings were in the Brooks Bunch, too. They all got Brooks Bunch scholarships.

“I’ve tried to mimic Derrick’s life in some ways, like service to others, like the Army. I’ve sought out organizations that serve something bigger than myself.”

*****

Eddie Thinger

Sophomore, Brooks DeBartolo Collegiate High

“I didn’t expect him to be here a whole lot. I just thought he was a name on the building. But he’s always around, asking how we’re doing.

“In his talks with us, he always talks about giving back. I volunteer with Metropolitan Ministries. Mr. Brooks says even making a small difference is better than making no difference at all.”

*****

Arsana “Sunny” Wiggins

Senior, Brooks DeBartolo Collegiate High

“I volunteer at my old elementary school, Walton Academy, tutoring kids. I have a few kids who call me ‘teacher.’ I think it’s my job to go back and help kids out. I’ll be attending Florida A&M, double major, economics and music industry with a minor in business law. I’ve known Mr. Brooks since I was in sixth grade, because of the Derrick Brooks Charities ‘Rite of Passage’ program. It’s more than student and school co-founder. We’re kind of friends. We’re always having conversations about the future. He’s a leader, a very strong leader. I think of myself as a leader, too.”

*****

Cunnie Chostel

Freshman, Brooks DeBartolo Collegiate High

“He’s a big dreamer. There aren’t a whole lot of people who go out and build a school. … I want to be a doctor, maybe for Doctors Without Borders. I want to work with kids, especially kids who don’t have a great home life, domestic abuse and stuff like that, because sometimes they don’t have a person to turn to.”

*****

A.J. Ponds

Brooks Bunch alumnus

“For that Africa trip, for all the trips, we had to study a curriculum. It was always about learning. We had to write an essay. Then we waited for the letters to come in the mail. When I opened it, all I remember was reading the word ‘Congratulations.’ Just seeing that word, it meant my world was opening up a little bit.

“It’s more than the stipends he sent us in college, each semester, for four years. My freshman year, I got a brand new computer for school. That was my first computer ever. He’s a father figure to me. It’s no reach. My father wasn’t really around me. Mr. Brooks always pushed us to follow our dreams. I have two younger brothers and I tried to set an example as best I could. I graduated from Webber International University. I just finished a technical program at HCC, auto body collision program. I’d like to open my own shop.

“That trip to Africa, we’re on the plane going across the ocean, and I looked out the window and I see the clouds kind of stacked like a flight of stairs going up into the sky. I knew right then that maybe my whole life was going to be different from there on.”

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