Carson Murray has known poverty most of his life.
The Rogers senior isn’t sure what he wants to study in college, but he’s certain about one thing – he wants to help people.
That includes giving his future family a better opportunity in life.
“Poverty,” he said, pausing for effect. “That’s not the life I want for my family.”
At some point down the road, after Murray discovers his calling and is living it out, he wants to give back to his community.
That selfless characteristic puts a smile on the face of Rogers resource counselor and Murray’s high jump coach, Julius DeFour.
“So much impresses me about Carson,” DeFour said. “His greatest asset is his mindset. It’s that of a champion. We’re walking around school and he sees a piece of trash on the floor and he picks it up. And I didn’t think to pick it up. I think his ripple effect in this community will be profound. Everything that he’s accomplished goes back to his community. It’s not just for him. He understands the ripple effect.”
Murray’s mother called him “her legend.” And he’s trying to live up to her belief in him.
Dana Murray died the spring of Carson’s sophomore year after a four-year battle with breast cancer. The day she died Carson competed at a track meet.
It’s what his mother would have wanted.
“My mother’s death had a lot to do with me growing up,” Murray said. “I had to ask myself, ‘Do I want to be a victim or do I want to be a victor?’ I turned a lot of my oppression into a scholarship.”
Two weeks ago at the Pasco Invite, Carson won titles in the high and triple jumps. That was the beginning of a wonderful week for him. Last Thursday, he was named the school’s male scholar athlete of the year.
Then Saturday, he boosted his school record in the high jump another inch when he cleared 6 feet, 8 inches to win at the Mooberry Relays.
The best news, though, came last Thursday evening when he got home. A package was awaiting him about a Gates Millenium Scholarship.
“I figured I had gotten it because they wouldn’t have sent a rejection letter in a package,” Murray said.
Sure enough, he found out that he had landed an all-expenses-paid scholarship to the college of his choice. He is one of 1,000 recipients this year out of about 54,000 applicants.
He’s been accepted for admission to the University of Washington and St. John’s; he’s on a waiting list for Georgetown, his first choice. He’ll learn about Georgetown in early May.
“It’s $59,000 a year to attend Georgetown,” he said.
He had a 3.0 grade-point average out of a 4.0 scale his freshman year.
DeFour steered Murray to higher heights academically and athletically in his sophomore year.
Murray posted a 3.5 GPA that year and had a 3.9 with all A’s and one B last year.
He’s on a 4.0 pace this year and hopes to finish with a cumulative 3.7 or higher GPA. He’s taking four Advanced Placement classes this year – calculus, physics, composition literature and comparative government. He’s also taking third-year Spanish. He has a teacher’s aide hour that he uses to take a breath or do homework. And he goes in an hour before school for his leadership class as ASB president.
Murray wishes he had piled up his responsibilities sooner.
“If I had the mindset that I have now as a freshman, I’d definitely have a 4.0 (GPA overall),” Murray said.
Murray gives DeFour the most credit. Then he heaps praise on his godmother, Lisa Jones, Rogers principal Lisa Wyborney, counselors Nancy Pemberton, Ben Cochran and Debby Chandler and ASB adviser Karrie Docterman.
“I have a lot of people I’m grateful for and a lot of things to be grateful for,” Murray said. “I remember my sophomore year when DeFour told me to rip up my cool card. He told me to redefine normal. He made me realize I needed to be myself.”
Athletics have been another opportunity to grow through high school. A two-year starter in basketball, he was the lone Rogers athlete to qualify for state in track last year and he went in both jumps.
Murray lives with his father, Tobius, a former college basketball star at the University of Baltimore. He was on hand Saturday, smiling as his son cleared 6-8 on his first attempt.
While Carson is a standout athlete in his own right, he wants his legacy to be more than about sports.
“As a freshman I didn’t have a focus,” Murray said. “I’ve been sharing that with our freshman class. Had I had more of a focus it may have opened more doors, who knows. I wouldn’t be half the man that I am today without Rogers High School. Coming to Rogers High School has been a privilege. Seeing so many underprivileged students makes me want to help everyone. I want to put it in their heads they can not only be as good as me but better than me. I’m just a student with a good heart that had to mature a little faster than a lot of students here.”