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Apr 29, 2024

Talking the Talk, Walking the Walk

Cheryl Ricer

Photography By

Where does Bynum’s motivation come from?  “From within me,” he said. “I’m a hard-working person, my mom is a hard-working person, and my grandma is a hard-working person.”

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Few teens have more on their minds than what’s trending on social media and how to garner more attention on their online personas. So, when you run into a young person who is walking the talk in their daily lives and impacting the lives of those around them in a positive, uplifting way, you take notice. 

Anthony Bynum is that young man. 

Anthony Bynum, a student at Hilton Head High School, is currently president of the National Beta Club, vice president of the National Honor Society, and vice president of Mu Alpha Theta. 

“I try to go above and beyond in everything that I do, whether it’s my academics or my extracurriculars,” said Bynum, a senior at Hilton Head Island High School (HHIHS). “Though, I feel like I’m a normal kid. I do normal things that other kids do, like play basketball and football. I have a job. But when it comes to volunteering and making a difference, I am very passionate.”

At HHIHS, Bynum is currently president of the National Beta Club, vice president of the National Honor Society, and vice president of Mu Alpha Theta. He is also accomplishing great things across a variety of forums. Recently, he was honored at the Beaufort County School District’s third annual African American History Education Conference for his work organizing and implementing a tutoring program for students at Hilton Head Island School for the Creative Arts and Hilton Head Island Elementary. 

Bynum’s idea for the tutorial program was sparked during advisory meetings student leaders had with administrators. 

“Dr. (Frank) Rodriguez, our district superintendent, had a meeting with select students on what changes we would like to see in our schools,” Bynum said. “Over the next few days, I gave it a lot of thought.”

Anthony participates in Pockets Full of Sunshine’s “Fun in the Sun” event, which happens this year on Friday, June 7.

The next time Bynum saw Dr. Rodriguez was at Chic-Fil-A, where Bynum works. He asked Dr. Rodriguez if he could meet with him to share an idea he had been pondering. 

“I was struck by the lack of diversity in rigorous classes at the high school,” Bynum said. “When I met again with the superintendent, he explained that as early as elementary school, students are set on a track that becomes a trajectory for their education. For me, for example, I was set on a gifted and talented track, so that was great. But for some kids on lower tracks, an upward trajectory becomes less and less likely the older they get.”

Bynum began to understand how important it is to intervene in those early grades and help struggling students to experience success. His idea was to allow high school students to tutor the elementary students in math and reading a couple of mornings a week. Dr. Rodriguez approved the idea, so Bynum’s next stop was to share his plan with his high school principal.

“Anthony came to see me about an idea he had,” said Steve Schidrich, principal of HHIHS. “Anthony has taken honors, AP, and IB classes throughout his scholastic career. He saw that there were not many minorities in these classes, so he wanted to do something about it. He pitched his idea, we saw it was a good one, and we gave him approval to commence.” 

Anthony Bynum with the Pockets Full of Sunshine crew

Bynum began recruiting other high school kids to join him at 7:30 a.m. two mornings a week at the elementary schools to help kids with reading and math, with the goal of helping them not only get better test scores, but also to move them into higher programs, such as gifted and talented or accelerated classes. 

“Since it is elementary level reading and math, as long as you are patient, positive, and kind, you can help these kids,” Bynum said. “It is so effective for the younger kids to have a role model from the high school. … They can see that you’ve done it and you’ve been through it. They can relate to you.”

Last year, Bynum’s tutoring circle consisted of about 10 high schoolers per elementary school. This year, his volunteer group is up to about 15 to 20 per school, which means more elementary students will benefit. Results are the proof: Last year’s test results showed an 80% increase in reading and an 80% increase in math proficiency, while 100% of the students improved in either one or both subjects. 

“I’m super proud of those numbers,” Bynum said. “Now, their chances to enroll in classes that will open up new opportunities for them is much higher due to their interactions with us and the improvement they’ve experienced. The principal said that even if the kids remained stagnant, it could have been worse if we weren’t there helping to tutor them. They could have actually declined instead. So, we’ve had some sort of impact on them regardless.”

“Anthony does an amazing job working with our students and leading others to do the same,” said Nikki Duba Lucas, principal at Hilton Head Island School for the Creative Arts. “He is such a positive role model. We’re proud to have him as part of our school community.”

Anthony tutors younger kids before the school bell rings. 

“Anthony and his tutors are doing amazing things with students at the elementary schools impacting their reading and math skills,” Schidrich said. “I am sure we will see these students come to us at HHIHS ready for advanced classes.”

Bynum’s impact can also be felt outside the school community at Pockets Full of Sunshine (PFS), where he is a volunteer for the group’s “Rays,” as their members are known. Since middle school, Bynum has been serving as a buddy at PFS. 

“I love talking to the Rays because they have such unique experiences and amazing things to say,” Bynum said. “They are also some of the most positive, nicest, and kindest people I’ve ever met. Once they even showed up to one of my football games with posters to support me.” 

Laurin Rivers, part of the Leadership Team at PFS, affirms that Bynum is an incredible young man who truly encompasses every quality a young volunteer should possess.

“Anthony is reliable, he brings his brother and friends to volunteer alongside him, he shows up at a huge variety of our events, and he is always willing to help across a variety of situations, such as markets, Sunday crafting sessions, Night to Shine (which is a prom-like event for special teens and adults),” Rivers said. “He even hopped right in the water at our Fun in the Sun for Everyone Beach event. Anthony truly enjoys his time with the Rays, and he treats them all with dignity and respect. We love all our volunteers of every age, but to have a young, popular athlete choose to spend time with our population who are often overlooked is truly special.” 

Bynum is bold about crediting his faith in God with the successes and opportunities he has experienced. He is a leader in both his youth group at Christian Renewal Church and in the local chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA).

“My faith is the most important thing to me and plays a major role in everything I do,” Bynum said. “If the culture I’m in doesn’t align with my faith, I will remove myself from that situation. Having discernment on whether something, someone, or somewhere provides a good place for my faith to prosper is critical to my success.” 

In March, Anthony added another accolade to his list of accomplishments. He spoke and shared his faith at the FCA Annual Dinner. 

“Some of the most excellent students are part of our volunteer FCA student leadership team,” said Lisa Richardson, FCA area staff representative. “The typical student leader is not typical at all, in that they desire to stand out from the crowd versus blending in when it comes to upholding standards of Biblical moral living and virtue. We’ve witnessed Anthony grow from a quiet young man to one who is bold and outspoken about his Christian faith. Most importantly, he lives it by his example. Anthony has never said no to an opportunity to serve others and does so with integrity, class, and consistency.”

Where does Bynum’s motivation come from? 

“From within me,” he said. “I’m a hard-working person, my mom is a hard-working person, and my grandma is a hard-working person.”

Anthony’s mom, Feven Bynum, confirms that her son is an intrinsically motivated over-achiever. 

“We don’t ever give up,” his mother said. “We give all we’ve got. My children understand there are no excuses at life. If you want it, you work for it. Anthony takes initiative and doesn’t let anything stop him. He also has a very compassionate heart for serving others.” 

Bynum’s future includes studying aerospace engineering in college, then a Ph.D., before landing a job with NASA, working to make planes and rockets more sustainable. He also hopes that more high schoolers will participate in the tutoring programs for elementary schools. 

“Malachi, my younger brother, will be a senior next year,” Bynum said. “He is going to pick up the torch and keep the program going once I graduate. Our superintendent is also planning to involve more schools in the district. I hope that more and more high schoolers will see the impact they can have on the future by participating as a tutor.” 

Bynum’s shoes are some big ones to fill, and what a wonderful legacy he’s leaving behind – showing those who follow him how to not just talk the talk, but how to walk the walk.  

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