A Mother's Day gift she's happy to share

Published May 12, 2006

Over the years, Patricia Banwo has received all kinds of Mother's Day gifts from her son, Adedayo, from flowers and dinners to bottles of perfume.

This year, however, he's giving a little bit more. Patricia, who raised Adedayo and two other sons as a single parent in the old Robles Park Public Housing project, will watch her 25-year-old son graduate from Duke University's School of Law this weekend.

"I'm overwhelmed with pride," Patricia said. "It makes me feel like I did something right coming up through the hard struggles as a single parent."

Although Patricia wasn't able to give her children everything they wanted, she did give them hope, especially during trying times. When Adedayo was 12, he came to his mother crying.

"He said he was crying because he wanted to go to college, but he knew we couldn't afford it," Patricia explained. "I just told him to keep doing the right thing, and the Lord will make a way."

With the Lord's help, Adedayo says, he has done much to make a way for himself and others. In high school, he took advantage of every college prep program and opportunity available, including Upward Bound and All-Sports Community Service.

All-Sports has helped place more than 700 kids in college since former NFL player Tyrone Keys started the outreach program in 1993. In exchange for All-Sports' help, the kids must do community service. Adedayo traveled on city buses three times a week to help with sponsored activities.

"Adedayo refused to conform to the negative environment that surrounded him," Keys said. "When others thought it was uncool to carry books, Adedayo always had a stack of books and newspapers to read."

He also volunteered with Teen Court, which allows teens to decide the fate of juveniles who have been charged with misdemeanors. Not only did Teen Court heighten his interest in the law, but it made him more determined to use education to escape the clutches of poverty.

"I saw a lot of kids that were struggling (with) issues and it reinforced the positive direction I was going on," Adedayo said Thursday during a telephone interview. "Helping others is a good way to reinforce the positives in your life."

Keys likes to say Adedayo's work was like sowing seeds, and he began to reap that harvest when he received a $100,000 scholarship from the Park Foundation to attend North Carolina State University.

After graduating from N.C. State, he went on to Duke, but he continues to help others. Last year, he helped another All-Sports student, Jordan Wallace, earn a scholarship to N.C. State. Now Wallace is trying to help another Tampa student earn the same scholarship.

Adedayo also spent a year at England's Cambridge University, earning a master's degree in philosophy and law.

"For a kid from Robles Park, sometimes I would be in shock that I was there (at Cambridge)," Adedayo said. "I'm still in shock, really. I didn't really meet anyone there like me. It was an amazing experience."

After graduating, Adedayo will continue to harvest his bounty working as a clerk for Judge Carl Stewart of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Shreveport, La. He's expecting a lot of work but is excited about the opportunity.

Eventually, he would like to return to Tampa and work for a local firm. Public service is in the back of his mind.

And how has this young man from the projects accomplish so much?

His mother, of course.

"She instilled in us the value of learning and reading and hard work," Adedayo said. "She really encouraged us to focus on high school, education. I was very determined to try and make a way for myself and my family."

Thanks to the Carrollwood Bar Association, Patricia will get to fly up and witness the law school hooding ceremony Saturday at Duke's famed Cameron Indoor Stadium.

"To see him succeed on Mother's Day weekend I guess is the ultimate gift," Patricia said.

In case you're wondering, Adedayo is a Nigerian word. It means happiness.

That's all I'm saying.

Ernest Hooper can be reached at 813 226-3406 or hooper@sptimes.com