Dunsin Fadojutimi of Eastern Tech spent a lot of time juggling her tough academic demands and family needs while still playing on the girls basketball team. Alcedo Hodge Jr. faced a similar story at the Maritime Industries Academy, but his balancing act involved playing football.
All of that work paid off in a big way for both on Monday night when they were named winners at the 75th McCormick Unsung Heroes banquet at Martin's Valley Mansion. McCormick honored both with scholarships valued at $40,000 over a four-year period, something the pair said will make the difference for them when it comes to going to college.
Fadojutimi and Hodge, both seniors, became the 76th and 77th recipients of the Charles Perry McCormick Scholarship. These two athletes were picked from a pool of 118 Unsung Heroes at 73 public, private, parochial and independent schools in the Baltimore area.
The Eastern Tech basketball player plans on going to Lincoln University (Pa.) to study engineering and physics, something that will give Fadojutimi lots of work over the next few years. But she'll certainly know a little about that.
She often would arrive at school at 7 a.m. and sometimes not be able to start getting home until around 11 p.m. due to transportation issues. Or, the Nigerian-born senior would need to help watch her two younger brothers, something that also complicated her schedule.
Still, she kept pushing on, and Fadojutimi said this award really locks a lot into place.
"I get to go to college for sure," she said with a smile. "I may have gone to college, but I might not [have] finished and now I can."
Hodge focused hard on helping his family. In addition to playing football, he regularly works two jobs to help out his mother — who also works two jobs.
That's why the way Hodge works on the football field shouldn't surprise anyone. Despite being 5-foot-8 and just 155 pounds, Hodge eventually became a middle linebacker. He started off as a cornerback, but the coaches asked him to move to the middle despite his small stature.
He even filled in at nose guard, battling players much bigger in size, but Hodge never wavered. There's no question Hodge understands the importance of hard work, and now he'll get to do it in college. Hodge isn't sure where he's going yet but wants to earn an MBA and maybe start his own business one day — and now he has a better chance.
"This is so remarkable that words can't explain the emotions that I'm feeling right now," Hodge said. "This is such an honor."
Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning served as the keynote speaker for the event, mixing in stories about his own career in football while repeatedly telling the honorees about the importance of working hard and trying to make a difference.
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"From what I've been told, I know there are game-changers sitting in this room," Manning said to the crowd. "You should feel immense pride."