We are a family
“I don’t really remember exactly how it happened,” says Darrius Nance '13. “Friendship turned into love and that turned into a family.” Just that simple.
Darrius came to Pius XI from Catholic East. He was a good basketball player and became friends with some of the boys on the freshman team, including Charlie Burnett.
While Charlie had two parents, Larry Burnett and Mimi Foley, who made sure he ate a good breakfast every day, had rides to and from school and activities and oversight of school work, Darrius had none of those.
Darrius lived with his Mom and sister two bus rides away. He slept on a broken futon. If the electricity wasn’t turned off, he had light, but no computer or internet to do homework. He never ate breakfast and usually didn’t eat lunch either.
Darrius had to take care of a Mom who wasn’t able to care for herself, much less her other children, and the weight of that, and trying to get through school proved difficult for the hopeful young man with a bright smile. He missed 10-15 games that first year because he was on academic probation.
Charlie Burnett and Darrius Nance on the freshman boys' basketball team
While watching basketball, Charlie’s parents took notice of Darrius and his wonderful manners, sportsmanship, and overall kindness. And they noticed how often he was benched for his grades.
“He probably had better manners than my own kids,” laughed Mimi Foley, Charlie’s Mom. “He has always been the nicest young man. We just loved getting to know him. I saw how he treated people with such kindness. You can’t help but love him.”
So how did Darrius come to call Mimi Foley and Larry Burnett ‘Mom’ and ‘Dad’, and Charlie (’13), Caroline (‘07) and John (‘09) brothers and sisters?
“There was the occasional ride home from a game,” recalls Mimi. “I would ask if he wanted a bite to eat on the way home. I knew that he probably hadn’t eaten all day.”
Eventually Darrius agreed to occasionally spending the night if he was working on a project and needed a computer and the internet.
“It was the first time I ever slept in a real bed,” he says. “When she (Mimi) woke me up, I asked if I could just stay in that bed for a little while longer because it was so comfortable.”
We SUPPORT each other
Mimi and Larry knew they had to do something to help students like Darrius who weren’t getting the academic support they needed at home. They made an investment in some in-school tutoring services at Pius XI.
Mimi and Larry are do-ers. They see inequity, and they do something about it.
Five years later, this program, known as Academic Support, is still run by Ben Fischer ‘03. And it is open to students who need one-on-one support, compassion and advocacy. The program has changed many futures over the past five years.
Mary Riegert '66, Dick Fischer '61 and Ben Fischer '03. Dick and Ben work together to individually serve the academic needs of countless students
Darrius, Mimi, and Larry give a lot of credit to Ben Fischer for the gentle way he encouraged and motivated Darrius to stay on top of his work.
“He always found a way to help me learn by putting things into terms that I could relate to.” Darrius says. “Ben wouldn’t let me skip our meetings either. If I didn’t show up, he would send me a text or come find me.”