The stands at a typical Washington-Liberty (W-L) High School basketball game are packed as students and parents alike cheer on the blue and gray. Braylon Meade was on track to be on the receiving end of a lion’s share of that energy this year in what would have been his senior season. Though he is gone, he still has many fans.
Among his biggest ones? His parents, Kris and Rose. “There wasn’t anyone Braylon wouldn’t give time to,” says Kris. “There wasn’t one person he would disregard. He touched the lives of ‘jocks’, he touched the lives of ‘nerds’, he touched the lives of younger kids through tutoring and basketball…He touched the entire community.”
It’s been two months since Braylon, a 17-year-old student athlete at W-L High School, lost his life when his car was struck by a drunk driver. And in those two months, it has become more and more evident just how much Braylon meant to the entire community, and what that community has meant to Braylon’s family.
In the wake of his death, Braylon’s family sought ways to honor his life and legacy. “Braylon was a great student – he would have continued to be – and he loved lifting others up,” Rose explains. “He had just gotten his college applications in, so enjoying the rest of his senior year and then planning for life after high school were very front of mind. After learning about the Community Foundation from a few close friends, and talking to the Community Foundation about the process, it made immediate sense to establish a scholarship fund in Braylon’s name.”
Soon after the fund and donation page were set up, memorial gifts began to pour in… and they just kept coming. “We’ve just been so amazed by the breadth of the support, by the meaningful ways in which folks have enabled Braylon’s legacy to live on here,” Kris says.
“The generosity of both people we’ve never met, and people that have touched our lives over 20 years, is a real testament to the broad impact Braylon made, and a real tribute to Arlington as a community – a fact we don’t always appreciate. The willingness of so many different folks from so many different places to help perpetuate his legacy has been quite amazing.”
“And it’s been a very important way for Kris, the kids, and me to channel some positive energy through this vehicle – a vehicle that actually gives life to the notion of ensuring Braylon’s legacy goes on,” says Rose.
A legacy, Kris adds, that is multi-faceted.
“Braylon’s legacy is a legacy of kindness, a legacy of empathy, a legacy of hard work, a legacy of lifting others up, a legacy of scholarship, and a legacy of humor,” Kris pauses for a second to reflect, and chuckles, “He was a funny kid.”
With such a wide-reaching legacy, Braylon’s parents wanted the fund to be just as dynamic. So instead of creating one scholarship in Braylon’s name, they created three. “By establishing three scholarships, we hope to touch several different aspects of Braylon’s life,” Kris explains. “The way we’ve identified eligibility underscores things important to Braylon, and the scope of the scholarships mirrors the qualities of all three of our children: highly athletic, highly scholastic, and involved in a wide range of interests.”
The first of the three scholarships reflects a part of Braylon’s life that earned him hundreds of fans on and off the court: W-L Boys’ Varsity Basketball. Known for his hustle, humor, and leadership, Braylon became what W-L Head Coach Robert Dobson described as “the glue” of the team. And now, with an annual scholarship awarded to a graduating member of the W-L Boys’ Varsity Basketball team, Braylon will always be a part of the lineup.
Beyond basketball, W-L High School played a significant role in the life of Braylon and his family. “All three of our children went to W-L,” Kris says. “They all had such great experiences with the W-L community: the students, the diversity, the teachers, what they learned. It’s hard to contemplate a public school that lives up to such incredible standards, and W-L has done just that.” To honor the role W-L has played, and the role athletics have played in all three children’s lives, the second annual scholarship will be awarded to a W-L High School senior who has participated on any W-L sports team.
The third scholarship will be yet another way “Braylon touches the entire community:” an annual award to a graduating senior from any Arlington Public School.
In his legacy of “scholarship,” all three scholarships have academic requirements. In his legacy of “lifting others up,” all three are for students with financial need. And to “give life to the notion of ensuring Braylon’s legacy goes on,” all three scholarships are renewable for up to four years.
When asked if there’s anything Kris and Rose want people to know about Braylon and his legacy that hasn’t already been said, this is what they had to say: “The prospect of making these awards and interacting with the kids who receive the scholarship funds will be another vehicle through which Braylon can continue to be a part of our lives and their lives.”
“A lesson that’s come out of this is just how much he touched others’ lives. And if we can lift up three other teenagers each year, then we can do more to sustain his legacy than we could have ever hoped to do.”
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