Michael Banks grew up across the street from what is now the newly christened Walter S. Segaloff Campus of An Achievable Dream Middle and High School.
The campus and Founder's Hope Wall in the entryway to the school were dedicated Wednesday morning to Segaloff, the founder of Achievable Dream who died in August 2013. Banks, a 2001 graduate of the high school, gave an emotional speech to sponsors, staff and Segaloff's family during a ceremony at the school.
The wall and naming of the campus honor the work Segaloff started in 1992. What he began as a tennis camp is now a program that serves about 1,500 students at campuses in Newport News and Virginia Beach.
Banks said that without Segaloff, it was "improbable" that he would've gone on to graduate from the University of Virginia and work as an assistant pastor at Calvary Chapel in Newport News.
"One of the more iconic mental portraits that we have of Mr. Segaloff is as we arrived to Huntington Park on the premises, seeing him right there waiting for us to exit so that he might take his big hand and envelop our little mittens," Banks said. "As I grew, and even now, just thinking back on those days, it would cause me to wonder what would cause a man — frankly a white, Jewish man — to want to connect with some small, black preacher's kid from the Southeast Community of Newport News.
"Then I realized that it was those big hands were connected to an even bigger heart," Banks said as the crowd nodded in agreement.
The Founder's Hope Wall behind Banks was revealed after his remarks and words from Kathy Edwards, president and CEO of An Achievable Dream Inc. The wall is decorated with pictures of Segaloff and quotes from sponsors about what Segaloff meant to the community, such as "Thank you Walter for this life changing experience;" "His life made ours richer, our world a better place;" and "Thank you for your vision, your leadership, inspiration and friendship."
Outside on the front lawn of the campus, Newport News Public Schools Superintendent Ashby Kilgore spoke about the division's partnership with Segaloff and An Achievable Dream Inc. to educate students in the Southeast Community. A member of the staff read a letter from Rep. Scott Rigell commending Segaloff's work.
Kilgore and Segaloff's widow, Ann Segaloff, then removed a tarp to reveal the signage for the Walter S. Segaloff Campus, something Ann Segaloff said was a permanent mark of her late husband's legacy.
"It's hard for me to even talk about it, because actually Walter did a lot of things along the way for the community, it wasn't just this. ... I think in the Jewish faith, it's not so much afterlife, it's what you put into this life," Ann Segaloff said as she began to tear up, "and I can't think of anybody who put more in his life."
The wall and sign will greet students such as senior Danielle Robinson every day as they enter campus. Robinson, like Banks, said her life would be different without what Segaloff accomplished.
"It's bigger than I can put into words," Robinson said as she looked around the campus. "The goal of college wouldn't be real without Achievable Dream."
Hammond can be reached by phone at 757-247-4951.