At first blush, James Hall's graduation from Ballou Senior High School this year may seem like an unremarkable, if admirable, achievement.
Yet Hall managed to get his diploma even as he tended his rambunctious, 2-year-old daughter Ja'Mya in the apartment they share in Southeast Washington.
The story of this single father, first reported in March in The Washington Post, prompted a host of individuals to donate money, furniture, toys, a laptop computer and household items to Hall and his daughter.
The Greater Washington chapter of the 100 Black Men of America Inc. presented Hall with a Youth of the Year award. The organization's national chapter flew him to New Orleans for another ceremony.
Hall said he has enjoyed the support and recognition, although he acknowledged that it has been a bit overwhelming. "I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing," he said of his role as a father.
Now 19, Hall was in the delivery room when his then-girlfriend gave birth to Ja'Mya in April 2003. After he and the baby's mother broke up less than a year later, Baltimore social workers called him to say that they had his daughter. Hall went to pick up Ja'Mya, and she has been with him ever since.
He is to attend the University of the District of Columbia on a full scholarship in September. He said he hopes to become a deputy U.S. Marshal. For financial support, he will be able to rely in part on a trust fund established for him and his daughter by Julian Tepper, a Maryland lawyer.
Hall's story was so moving, Tepper said, that he solicited donations for the fund to help the teenager meet college expenses and to raise Ja'Mya. Tepper declined to detail how much is in the trust, but he said that the money will be placed with a brokerage house and put in "conservative, careful investments" and that he hopes it will last at least until Hall graduates from college. "He's a 19-year-old boy; the idea is to do things for him to make their lives more than tolerable," Tepper said.
Yolanda Hunter, the administrator at a District-based law firm, also read about Hall and was moved to help him. In March she hosted a reception in his honor at the Renaissance Hotel, at which more than 20 people showed up with gifts and praise. Wal-Mart donated a $2,000 gift card. A furniture store gave him a $500 gift certificate. A car dealership gave $200 to the trust fund.
"A lot of people are helping me," Hall said. "I didn't think anyone cared."
He described his life as a single father as a challenge but one that he is up to. "It's not easy; it's still kind of bumpy," he said. "But it's better than it was before."
-- Paul Schwartzman