#cyberbullying | #cyberbully | Eight years after Michael Brown’s death, students at his high school reflect on his legacy

Coming up in Wellston, Missouri, Omarion “Omar” Henry grabbed on tight to his dream. Living in one of the poorest suburbs of St. Louis, he sometimes found it impossible to see beyond limits. One recent spring morning at the O’Fallon Family YMCA, washed in sweat, Omar sprinted up and down an open court, the floor screeching with every line drill, his trainer yelling, “C’mon, one more.” As painful as every squeak sounded, this — playing basketball — was always the dream. When you’re 6’7’’and rangy, it’s hard for it not to be. To afford the $25-an-hour private coaching sessions, he worked nights at FedEx, determined to make it out because not many in St. Louis like him do. They often feel if they fail to become what they’re chasing, the next best option for survival is the drug game or a gang – sometimes, both.

The 19-year-old made a major leap in his quest for a better life when he graduated in May 2021 from Normandy High School, where he was a star athlete. Since then, he’s been prepping for his first year this fall on a full ride to the University of New Orleans, a Division I school, his eyes fixed on the NBA.

Omarion ‘Omar’ Henry, 19

Normandy High School graduate, headed to the University of New Orleans

On Brown’s death: “It bothered me a lot because I’m a kid, I’m trying to have fun. I’m not trying to worry about if people were trying to kill me or pull out a gun on me or anything—police officers especially.”

On growing up near Ferguson: “I’m so used to this kind of environment and being afraid of police. I just know how it is being Black in America.”

In graduating from Normandy High with a plan for college, Omar found himself in rare company. Only about 2 in 3 Normandy students graduate, and fewer still — around 30 percent — go on to college or technical schools. Michael Brown had once been in this company, too, headed for a trade school after graduating from Normandy on Aug. 1, 2014, eight days before he was gunned down in nearby Ferguson by a white police officer.

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