He knew he was doing something right because he had gone from “being labeled and picked on to being captain of the football team.” His basketball coach introduced him to the possibility of going to college on an athletic scholarship. He ended up at a school in West Virginia, a community college in Tampa and a junior college in Marysville, Ca.
“I was just going wherever I could to be in school. I could better myself and have a place to live,” said Carter.
He kept leaving schools because he never had enough money to cover all of his expenses and the schools didn’t have dorms for athletes. Then an assistant coach at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte called. Smith had dorms; Carter accepted the offer.
He graduated from Smith on Mother’s Day of 2011 with a Bachelor of Science in Information System Engineering. Two of his sisters and one of his brothers attended the ceremony.
Now Carter is Director of a nonprofit program called Charlotte’s Web, which works with at risk middle and high school youth, teaching them computer skills. Then this year he received the best gift of all. He was adopted by the President of Johnson C. Smith, Ronald L. Carter, the man Cory calls “Pop.” (Ironically, they both shared the same last name.)
The elder Carter calls his new son “a blessing.”
He first met Cory after the dean of students came to his office to discuss a student with disciplinary problem. President Carter’s own experience as a foster parent prompted him to wonder if the student was dealing with some personal issues. Then the dean mentioned that the student had been emancipated from foster care. Carter said, “Don’t do anything until I have an opportunity to talk to him.
“I know children in foster care struggle with a lot of pain they sometimes cannot articulate,” he said.
He invited Cory to meet with him, then decided that in order to win his trust they needed to spend some time together, so he invited Cory to dinner.
“He agreed, much to my surprise,” Carter said. “At dinner, I used all my experience from nurturing foster kids to get him to open up. I said if he allowed me to mentor him, I would not impose sanctions against him. He agreed. That was the beginning of a relationship.”
That was Cory’s freshman year. It was an up and down relationship. Carter said, “He continued to try me, to see how committed I was.” But each time he got into trouble, Carter asked people to be patient. While working with Cory, Carter began to conceptualize an educational program he had dreamed of that offered a network for young people emancipated from foster care. The Foster Village Network Center was born.
Then the elder Carter tore a ligament in his leg and needed Cory to drive him around. Their relationship deepened.
“The turning point was when my daughter met Cory,” said Carter. “She took an immediate interest in him. They got along quite well. I remember one evening talking to my daughter and she said, ‘Dad, he’s such a part of our family and I see him as the brother I always wanted. Why don’t we make it official?’”
Carter approached Cory with the idea, and Cory responded: “That’s what I’ve been dreaming about for some time.”
“I’m very delighted to have him as part of family,” said Carter, who hopes their story will encourage other parents to consider adopting adult children.
Today, Cory Carter is happy—even with $150,000 in school loans, he said, laughing.
His advice to other young people?
“Just because you don’t get treated a certain way, you don’t have to feel sorry for yourself. Don’t give up. People may say you are not going to make it in school, or in life or college. If I had listened, I would have never made it.”