When Kenny Ferguson says he has done it all, he isn’t exaggerating. His resume is extensive. He’s been the personal security for NC State Men’s Basketball’s Head Coach Kevin Keatts, started his own videography company, was a federal protective security officer for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, launched a nonprofit and is an events and desktop support technician at the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation. Now, on April 5, he will be featured on the inside back cover of Forbes for his experience earning his MBA from the University of Arizona’s global campus. Ferguson speaks with us about his passion about education, being a lifelong learner and his advocacy work for children and families in Wake County.
Why did you decide to go back to school after dropping out 12 years before?
“If I’m not good, if I’m not set up the right way, how can I take care of others? I am the man I am today, I am where I am today, because I had to take that risk. And it led to me being a father. It led to me being a coach. It led to me being able to inspire others and be inspired daily. People told me I was crazy. They told me I was crazy when I wanted to get my master’s right after I graduated, but I know what my goals are. I know who I am. I know what I want to do with my life and if I’m going to be out here encouraging young people to take their education seriously, I wouldn’t change it. I wouldn’t change it one bit. God has really given me this platform and the ability to withstand a lot of stuff, and if not me, then who?”
Who was an educator who changed your life?
“I was not a good student. Being in foster homes my whole life and bouncing around, education came pretty tough…I didn’t really become a good reader until fifth/sixth/seventh grade, where I met that first educator. Her name was Kim Clary. I’ll never forget her to the day I die. She was a phenomenal woman. She was the woman that really encouraged me in the beginning to not lash out as much. She was the person that really saw that inner child…I am a better man today because of public education and multiple teachers taking the time to let me play catch up, essentially, and not treating me like I was a second class citizen, making me feel like I wasn’t worth their time.”
Why do you dedicate your time advocating for children?
“I dedicated my life to be a beacon of hope to others who have experienced so much pain and struggles. Because I went through it, I can now offer a glimpse of hope and love that if I can make it, so can they. Proof is that I went through it so others would not! Whether it be through my church, or just a need that someone brings to my attention, I’m always willing to help and be there for kids who are having a hard time, struggling. Of course I’m always looking for opportunities on how I can help change and upbring the next generation.”
As a member of the IT team, how do you think technology helps build equity in education?
“The really awesome thing about technology and just about what we do as being innovative in education here at the Friday Institute is that we’re able to really have a broader reach than just a local school. Obviously the kids in our backyard are great, and we want to make sure that the kids in our community are getting the same attention and the same innovative efforts through STEM as kids in Gaston County or in Buncombe County or wherever throughout North Carolina, but when you include technology in education, it allows for a child who may not have experienced life or seen certain things to be able to have access to looking at what the Sahara Desert looks like or being able to see what a molecule is made of and not having to be in a lab. You can see it virtually or through an Oculus [VR headset] …it allows for a child or a young person to really unlock their abilities and thought processes. It really creates analytical and critical thinking skills within our students by having technology and innovation as a part of education.”
Why did you join the Friday Institute team?
“Being here at the Friday Institute has been one of my greatest decisions I made, and I’m grateful for being brought into the team. Just seeing the work that goes on here with educators and people all over the world and how we’re inspiring the next generation through STEM–we’re inspiring the next generation of scholars and fellows and people that are doing the necessary research to change the lives of other people’s kids–is phenomenal. It’s so crazy that I work in a place like this that is so heavily regarded for working for and advocating on behalf of the educational lives of students.”