Alexius Ferguson is a lifelong St. Augustine resident who attended Webster, Murray, and St. Augustine High schools. After attending Charleston Southern University, he returned to his community and became a teacher. Following a short stint working for DCF (Department of Children and Families), he became acutely aware of just how much devastating traumatic events can affect a person’s life. The opportunity was right for him to make a change.
He started a movement called “Redemption” whose purpose was to redeem the community by addressing its flaws. The movement’s main areas of focus were the individual (can you look at yourself in the mirror and admit there are things you need to change?); the family (are you willing to invest the time in your family to make changes?); and the community (will you be able to apply what you’ve changed inside and at home to help those around you?). Alexius states the order is critical, “It’s an inside-out approach. You can’t start fixing the community if you’re not willing to start with yourself first.”
Alexius spent many hours outside of his regular job on Redemption and often spent much of his own money to help organize neighborhood cleanups, marches, hurricane restoration, and other projects. It was during this time that he came into contact with CHS (Children’s Home Society), and they knew just the position for him – Community Partnership School Director at The Webster School. The position required a master’s degree, but they worked with him to achieve this goal, and after completing his master’s at Liberty University online, he transitioned seamlessly into his new role.
This year, Webster is implementing a program called “Rachel’s Challenge,” which was created based on the journals of Rachel Scott, a victim of the 1999 Columbine High School shooting in Colorado. Rachel’s Challenge is based on the three groups of people she tried fervently to embrace: special needs students, new students, and students who were being bullied. One of the biggest pillars of the challenge is “acts of kindness.” Webster School has begun this year to create a paper chain of acts of kindness. The idea is to get kids to focus on positive things done by others which are then written on a paper “chain link” and added onto as the year progresses. The beginnings of a chain hang outside Alexius’s office. He hopes that by the year’s end, this paper chain will line the school halls.
Alexius shies away from talking too much about himself. “There are so many stakeholders (teachers, administrators, parents, volunteers, etc.) who have been doing this work for years and have never been praised or thanked for their efforts.” He never wants the work he does to be about him. But as we walked the hallways on a tour of the school, it’s apparent the students trust him – seeking him out for a high five, a pat on the back, or simply a smile and a hello.
Mr. Ferguson’s paper chain might just be the strongest building block in his village.