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Man with custody of half-brother gets college wish


A year ago Tavon Johnson, 19, was living in a homeless shelter with his half-brother, his dreams of a college education having little chance of ever coming true.

But that was before the Meade High School senior, who has custody of his half-brother, Gajuan, 13, taped a segment of the "Montel Williams Show" and Mr. Williams offered to pay for the educations of both young men.

"It's exciting," Tavon said after taping the show to air Monday on WMAR-TV Channel 2. "I never thought this much would happen to me after being in the newspaper. I was nervous on the show. You could hear the nervousness in my voice."

When Tavon's story first appeared in The Sun last year, the phones rang for weeks with offers from people who wanted to help the young man whose mother is a heroin addict and whose father was in prison. Tavon and Gajuan have spent most of their lives on their own. Their two younger half-sisters live in West Baltimore with their grandmother.

Local television stations picked up the story. A short time later, producers from "Eye to Eye" with Connie Chung called. Mr. Williams saw Tavon on the show in June and wanted Tavon, his mother, sisters and other family members to appear on his show.

"Montel was just in tears," said Ron Sato, the show's publicist. "He thought it was such a beautiful story. He thought it was a positive story about a young black teen-ager."

Although Tavon said he is preparing academically for college by taking algebra, physics and geometry classes this year, he has not applied to any schools.

"I hadn't applied anywhere yet because I had no idea how I was going to pay for it," he said. "So I guess now I can start looking at schools."

While Tavon and Gajuan's futures have brightened, the outlook for their mother, Yasmin Fairfax, is still bleak. During the show's taping, Ms. Fairfax, 37, said she wanted to kick her drug habit. Mr. Williams agreed to pay for her treatment. On Sept. 4, she walked out of a detoxification center in Annapolis, Tavon said. Yesterday, Mr. Williams, in a promotional spot for Monday's show, asked for information about Ms. Fairfax's whereabouts. Kyle Stargill, an Anne Arundel County police officer who befriended Tavon three years ago when Tavon lived in Freetown Village, found Ms. Fairfax yesterday in Baltimore.

Meanwhile, Tavon is going to school, studying, and working part-time in the pharmacy at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He says he feels fortunate.

"I don't think Gajuan quite understands yet what it means to have the opportunity to go to any college that he wants and not pay for it," Tavon says. "But when he gets older, he'll understand, like I do."

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