Ga’heime Griffin and Ridgeley Hudson had a pact as student leaders in the Detroit school district.
These young men, who got to know each other while advocating for their peers on a districtwide council, dreamed of taking their leadership beyond high school. And they vowed to look out for each other.
“He told me, ‘If I get there first, I’ll hire you, and if you get there first, don’t forget about me,’ ” Hudson recalled Wednesday morning.
Griffin died this week of injuries from a car accident. His death, at the age of 18, has hit hard in the Detroit Public Schools Community District, where Griffin was well known as not only a leader, but also as an athlete and a member of the ROTC. He was a senior at Pershing High School.
“He was a beautiful young man who was already a leader,” Detroit Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said on Twitter Tuesday afternoon. “He was everything we want our young men to be.”
A Detroit Police spokesman said a fatal accident occurred Monday night when a vehicle driven by a 19-year-old lost control and hit a pole. An 18-year-old died as a result of the crash that happened at 10:50 p.m. on the city’s east side. Police declined to identify the occupants of the car, but district officials said Griffin was the 18-year-old who was killed and that two others in the car are Pershing students. They said the students were returning from their jobs at a local McDonald’s.
Griffin had just recently celebrated his 18th birthday. He and Hudson connected because they sat next to each other while serving on a districtwide student council that regularly meets with Vitti. On that council, Griffin was a tireless advocate for his fellow students, Hudson said.
He recalled that at one meeting last school year, when the topic of high school start times came up, Griffin leaned over and privately asked him what he thought. Hudson replied that since he was soon graduating, it wasn’t an issue that would affect him. But Griffin argued otherwise.
“He told me that even though it wouldn’t affect me, it would affect others.”
“He was determined to lead,” said Hudson, who graduated in the spring from King High School and is now a student at Michigan State University. “He always said he wasn’t going to let his background or things he was going through interfere with him being great.”
He often told Hudson that if people didn’t know his name now, they would know it soon. Hudson has no doubts that would have happened.
“He was an earthly angel, one who advocated for everybody,” Hudson said. “He always fought for student rights, educational equity, equality.”
And he did it all while juggling football, basketball, ROTC, his leadership roles, and his job. Hudson said he recalls many times Griffin worked late at his job at McDonald’s, then got up early the next morning for school. His education was important, Hudson said.
“He was just dedicated. … He always called me his big brother, but I think he was the big brother.”
Griffin’s football coach Ralph Sewell told WXYZ-TV that Griffin was a “great young man” who was “liked by almost everyone he came in contact with.”
“It’s very tragic,” Sewell said. “Words can’t really describe the emotion. Words can’t really describe the impact right now.”
Hudson hopes Griffin’s commitment and dedication will serve as examples for others.
“I would just say to the younger generation that leadership is not discriminatory. You’re never too young to lead. Never too old to lead. Never too busy to lead. Ga’heime displayed that not only to Pershing High School, but also to [the school district] and the city of Detroit. He was a natural born leader.”