When he was 11 years old, George Jenkins decided he wanted to be a dentist. A lot of boys dream of being a doctor when they grow up. But not the ones in George's neighborhood. He lived in the one of the worst areas of Newark, New Jersey. Drugs, murder, gangs, crime, and violence are part of the black projects neighborhood that was - and still is - his home. George was unusual in his neighborhood - he managed to stay out of trouble.
Sam's parents moved to Newark from South Carolina. They did the unusual - they were able to buy a small home in that same neighborhood. It wasn't a great neighborhood when they moved in. By the time Sam's father moved out and Sam was going into junior high in the 1980's, it was one of the worst areas in the country. Sam was always curious, wanting to know what things were. Sam had some brushes with the law and had some friends who were trouble, but his schooling helped keep him steady. Because of that, he was able to go to a special magnet school in junior high, where he met George.
Rameck lived with his mother and grandmother in the same Newark neighborhood. Both his parents were drug addicts, getting clean, then getting addicted again. His friends were trouble. He was young and smart and "knew" that he could get by in his neighborhood. He went to the magnet school, University High, for his high school years, when he met George and Sam.
The three young men became friends. George always knew what he wanted and found programs that could help him go to college - unheard of in his neighborhood. One program specifically assisted blacks and minorities to enter medical programs, promising to pay medical school tuition. He knew that program could help not only himself but Rameck and Sam as well. After their discussions, those two also agreed that they should go to medical school and perhaps become doctors. The three friends made a promise to help each other through and that they would all graduate from college.
All the odds were against them. Rameck and Sam both spent some time in jail as teenagers. Their school, although good, was not up to the standards of most white high schools. They had to take some remedial classes the summer after they graduated high school before they could start college classes in the fall. Not all the school finance programs came through. They had to leave their neighborhood and live near campus. They had to buy books. And they had to study no matter how easy or difficult a class. There were the normal life crises that happen within their families and to themselves. They were subject to racial profiling. Yet the three lived together when they could (dental school and medical school were on different campuses) and constantly helped and challenged each other. In May, 1999, they all graduated from the same university with their respective medical degrees.
These three doctors took it further. Their residencies were all there in the same area close to where they had grown up. They have stayed there. Sam, as an emergency room doctor, often sees friends and family members come in. He sees many people from the neighborhood come in with the same troubles he was able to shake off. Rameck and George are also there, treating people who don't have enough, making a difference. When they graduated, they gained some fame and notoriety for their accomplishment. With the gifts they received and the encouragement they now spread to others in their life situation, they have started a foundation to help other young adults with the support they needed and gave each other.
The Pact is a triumphant story. It is written in first person narrative by all three men, each taking different chapters and describing their life from elementary school through medical school. It isn't very long (about 250 pages) but is rich in experience. The story is simply told, but not simplistic. It's an inspirational story that is written well and worth reading.
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