The day began with a chase and ended with a pact.
It was their junior year at University High School in Newark, N.J., in the late 1980s, and Sampson Davis, Rameck Hunt and George Jenkins were cutting class. This wasn’t unusual for the three, who grew up in a town riddled with crime, drugs and thieves.
The plan was to walk to the gymnasium and play basketball, blending in with the class already there. But once they were spotted by a school security guard, the chase was on.
The three boys ran through the school, eventually ducking into the library, where Seton Hall University was holding a session on careers in the health field.
What they heard in that library would change their lives.
Davis fell asleep; he figured he didn’t have what it takes to be a doctor. But Hunt and Jenkins were intrigued and paid attention. They left the session excited and told Davis they wanted to attend Seton Hall and make the transition to medical school, with the goal of becoming doctors.
“I’m like, ‘Hold on. You guys want to go to school eight more years? On purpose?’ ” Davis said.
It was then the three made The Pact. That moment set forth years of hard work and preparation, propelling the three through Seton Hall, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and allowed them to realize their dream.
The three doctors told their story to thousands of Fort Wayne Community Schools and East Allen County Schools students Tuesday at the Embassy Theatre before a speech open to the community Tuesday night.
Many students have read the men’s book, “The Pact,” in class, and Snider High School even formed its own “pact” groups for students to encourage one another.
The students were encouraged to work toward success in school and be proud when they achieved it; surround themselves with positive friends; and remind themselves that there is nothing they can’t do.
“We are you. We were once told we weren’t good enough,” Davis said. “If you hang around five people with no direction, it won’t be long until you’re the sixth.”
The odds were against the three doctors. All grew up in single-parent households with little money, and none of the men they came in contact with could be called role models.
By age 13, Davis had been arrested for shoplifting and was arrested again at 17 for armed robbery. Hunt faced an attempted murder charge when he was 15. That case was later dropped.
After The Pact was made, the men say they encouraged one another to work hard and play hard. They forced one another to study; helped one another find scholarships; and gave one another tips about open part-time jobs.
Davis is now an emergency-medicine physician, Jenkins is a dentist, and Hunt works in internal medicine. All practice in New Jersey.
They’ve been touring the country for about eight years, sharing their story and hoping to inspire students.
“We felt like we found something,” Hunt said. “We found a pot of gold that we wanted to share with everybody.”