“Although I was a little homeless kid…”

There was a time when o2ideas president and CEO Shelley Stewart wandered the streets barefoot as a homeless child.

As an African American in the segregated world of the 1940s American South, he had every possible disadvantage.  Having seen his father murder his own mother with an axe, then abandoned by other relatives, he and his brother Bubba found themselves alone in a hostile world.

Meanwhile, a first grade teacher had seen Shelley and Bubba searching for food in the garbage cans behind a local grocery store.

One day, Shelley found himself in her classroom.  She picked him up in her arms and with tears said, “I’ve seen you, and I know who you are.  If you learn to read… if you get a good education… you can be anything you want to be.”

Shelley relays this life-changing moment in a recent keynote address at the dedication of the new Parker High School in Birmingham, Alabama.

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