Nov. 30, 2009
By MOISEKAPENDA BOWER
Robert Calhoun didn't need to read the cautionary tales produced by those from humble surroundings because he witnessed them first hand while being reared in South Oak Cliff, a hardscrabble section of Dallas.
Calhoun has his parents, Janice and Robert Sr., to thank for supporting him with a loving familial unit that included his grandmother and aunt, and for shipping him to matriculate and graduate from Duncanville High School 10 miles from his neighborhood. Calhoun is credited for pairing a strong work ethic with his athletic gifts, a combination that earned him a scholarship to Rice, where he starred at linebacker before suffering a career-ending knee injury during the Owls' opener at UAB this season.
The unique environment at Rice stirred something deep within Calhoun, igniting a passion to help those who are prone to falling by the wayside like some of the promising athletes Calhoun matured with as a youth.
"Just being at Rice you see a different group of people than being at home," Calhoun said. "Probably the best athlete I've ever known growing up ended up having a murder case. If he could have just had the right direction, if somebody could have impacted his life some type of way, he could have been anything he wanted to be in the sports world.
"You wonder how things like this can happen to kids like this, and you realize it's the surroundings and the people that impact them. You want to open up an avenue for those kids that have big dreams to achieve those big dreams. It's scary when it comes to inner-city kids how difficult it is for them to dream big when everyone around them dreams so small."
During his time away from football, Calhoun outlined plans for helping inner-city kids reach their dreams. With the help of several like-minded friends, Calhoun is contemplating a non-profit organization called `Dream Big' designed to provide educational platforms, develop resume-building skills and foster job-search insight for the disenfranchised. His primary goal is to help pave the path to success for society's misguided.
"Whatever type of ways you can help inner-city children become successful," Calhoun said. "You have a dream? Strive for that."
Calhoun believes that he has developed the talent to put his plan in motion by working for the Houston Texans Foundation, an organization that builds funds for community service, and interning with Edison, McDowell & Hetherington, a law firm widely respected for its pro bono work and community investment. His postgraduate plans might include a pit stop in a managerial program before law school beckons, but the ultimate goal is to cultivate the cache necessary to best aid others.
The glitz and glamour of a career in law isn't the lure for Calhoun, but rather the opportunity to develop a power base that can assist individuals from similar backgrounds. A degree from Rice will provide Calhoun unfettered access, and he plans to utilize that access for good.
"I want to do some things that I feel like I can make a difference in," Calhoun said. "I've seen a lot of lawyers and people with that type of authority make decisions that change people's lives. You've got lawyers that do pro bono cases, lawyers that do work within the inner city, lawyers that do work with community relations, and it's something that inspires you.
"You just hope that whatever you do, you're doing something that's going to make a difference or that's going to impact someone else."
By focusing his efforts on working on the behalf of others, Robert Calhoun is aiming to be one of Tomorrow's Leaders.