An On-Ramp to Higher Education for Underserved Students

By Kathryn James 

Wes Moore is perhaps best known as the author of The Other Wes Moore (Spiegel & Grau, 2010), a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller chronicling the lives of two boys named Wes Moore from the same Baltimore neighborhood. One of the boys — himself — grew up to be a Rhodes Scholar, White House Fellow, and successful social entrepreneur; the other Wes Moore is currently serving prison time for killing a Baltimore police officer during an armed robbery. The book famously explores the impact of intervention, mentorship, strong adult presences, and personal responsibility for at-risk youth in America. 

But Wes Moore, who became a Phi Beta Kappa member at Johns Hopkins in 2001, is much more than a foil to Wes Moore, currently imprisoned. And Moore is not just an advocate for men like the “other” Moore, who experienced similar circumstances, sans many of the positive influences Moore had access to. Moore’s transformation, which began when his mother sent him to military school at 13, is frequently described as culminating in his receipt of a Rhodes scholarship to study International Relations. However, the biography he provides on the website of his company, BridgeEdU, focuses on much more than his Rhodes Scholarship. 

Moore’s self-description on the BridgeEdU website also emphasizes his service in the United States Army and his current social justice work. Moore has built upon both his academic and military experiences to advocate for fellow veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. He hosted a PBS program, Coming Back with Wes Moore, to highlight the stories of various veterans in stages of the transition back into civilian life in America from service, served on the board of the Iraq Afghanistan Veterans of America, and has spoken publicly about how to best speak to veterans about their service and experiences while deployed. 

Recently, Moore has transitioned into work creating and supporting high-quality educational outcomes for underserved students who otherwise may not pursue college. With the founding of BridgeEdU, he works towards “building a better on-ramp to higher education and career preparedness,” synthesizing the kind of community support he described as so impactful for himself in The Other Wes Moore. Building these supports into a widely deliverable culture of achievement, utilizing technology and in-person services for youth who do not have supports to get them to and through college, enables Moore to surmount the kinds of barriers that led the “other” Wes Moore down a very different path. Partnering with local colleges and universities to provide intensive assistance with financial aid, academic support, and the transition into college life, Moore has maintained his focus on the empowerment of at-risk communities.

Moore’s work to make college accessible for underserved students has already won him many awards. He was a 2015 Promise of America award winner (an award given by America’s Promise Alliance) and is currently an Ascend Fellow with the Aspen Institute. In February, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan appointed Moore to the University System of Maryland Board of Regents, recognizing both his educational success and his innovations improving the first-year experience of college students in Maryland through BridgeEdU. 

Kathryn James is a senior at the University of Mississippi where she is studying public policy leadership, Southern studies, and economics. The University of Mississippi is home to the Beta of Mississippi Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.