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TFK Kid Reporters: Meet David

Meet David Murtagh, one of the 10 outstanding kids selected to be a TFK Kid Reporter this school year. David is 11 years old and lives in Alexandria, Virginia. He likes to play the piano and ride his bike. David also likes to use his “old-style record player” to listen to music.

Finalists in the TFK Kid Reporter contest were judged on a number of factors. One of their assignments was to write an article about a hometown hero. David’s story is about Alton Wallace, who started a foundation to help children go to college. You can read about it below. We’ll be introducing the rest of the TFK Kid Reporter squad throughout September.

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Alton Wallace, 77, is the son of a Black farmer. Wallace grew up in New Bern, North Carolina. He spent his youth outside, enjoying nature. Wallace attended the local overcrowded and segregated schools, which lacked supplies and equipment. He was picked as one of only a few students from his school who were permitted to take the SAT at an all-white public school. He was awarded a scholarship to North Carolina Agricultural and Technical (A&T) State University, in Greensboro.

In 1960, students from North Carolina A&T sat down at a lunch counter and refused to leave until they were served, starting a historic sit-in movement among Black students across the country. Three years later, Wallace participated in the second wave of sit-ins. He says he was arrested at a movie theater and spent a week in jail. Wallace says that once he got out, he attended another sit-in and was held for a week at the Greensboro Coliseum because the jail was full.

Wallace says that, in 1966, he was driving home on Good Friday when he heard on the radio that the church he had attended as a child had been the target of an attack by the Ku Klux Klan. That was one of several events that shaped his passion to get involved in civil rights work. Another happened when Wallace was a teenager. He was standing on the side of the road and some white boys drove by and threw rocks at him. He recognized one of the boys as his former best friend. They had spent summers together when they were children. “It broke my heart,” Wallace told TIME for Kids.

Wallace graduated from Pennsylvania State University in 1968. He then served in the Army. He spent part of his military career in Vietnam. Afterward, in 1974, Wallace received a PhD in mathematics from the University of Maryland. It was while getting his PhD that Wallace decided he wanted to help poor children, through education.

Wallace went on to become a founder of the Alfred Street Baptist Church Foundation. It raises money for scholarships that go to high-school students who cannot otherwise afford college. Hundreds of students have received these scholarships.