On a spring afternoon in 1992, Sultan Jihad Ahmad got into a fight with two youths close to his age. With a shotgun in their possession, the opposing youth shot 15-year-old Ahmad six times–once in each leg, once in his side, once in his back and a final shot in the back of his head. Why did these two teenagers murder Ahmad? Because he had gotten the number of one of their girlfriends.
The story of Ahmad is only one of many that can be found from the area surrounding Ridge Avenue. Although his story isn’t based in the area, the foundation that emerged from his tragedy has its temporary home on the street.
“He is why we started this,” said Harriett Ahmad, the mother of Ahmad, “Here, we give money to youth that are on their way to college.”
From the tragedy that occurred with their son, Harriett and Sultan Ahmad created the Sultan Jihad Ahmad Foundation Scholarship Fund in an effort to guide the communities’ youth in the right direction. While the foundation reaches out to all youth, its scholarship focuses on a specific category of students.
“Since [Sultan] wasn’t an A student, we deal with kids that have C average grades like he did,” said Harriett Ahmad, “Kids that have A grades can always get scholarships to go to college, but some of these children that have levels lower than that, it can be pretty hard. So that’s why we chose that category of students.”
The foundation doesn’t solely focus on scholarships; it has also had a few programs for youth, including a computer academy to teach them basic computer skills. The organization also has a travel club that has taken the kids to New York City, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. Although the programs the group has already conducted or adopted have been a success, the foundation has bigger for its future.
“We used to have a banquet every year around his death date. We did banquets for 10 years and now we’ve been doing the golf tournament for the past five years,” said Harriett Ahmad, “This is so we can try to renovate the building on 19th and Oxford. Swing for Kids Golf Classic is our major fund raiser.”
The foundation’s main project at the moment is to raise enough funds to complete the renovation of its building at 19th and Oxford streets. In order for the renovation to be complete, the foundation still needs to raise $1.5 million in funds. The Ahmads are highly anticipating the building to be complete in order to begin new programs for youth in the community including clubs involving biking and fishing.
“We hope to accomplish the community–bringing everyone together. A place where the children can come, a safe place where they don’t have to worry about anything and where their needs can be met,” said Harriett Ahmad. “They have social needs and we want to help them with that and basically give them a safe-haven to go to. We want them to have somewhere to go to feel comfortable.”
For the 15 years that the Sultan Jihad Ahmad Foundation has been in existence, the founders have received word that their efforts have been a success to some youth they have helped with the program. Whether through a simple phone call or an e-mail, the success stories have made sure to keep in touch.
“Our phone number and e-mail address haven’t changed in 15 years, so there’s no reason why they can’t get in touch with us,” Harriett Ahmad said. “They make sure to let us know how they’re doing.”
Harriett Ahmad and her husband have been strong advocators of stopping violence in the community since the tragic death of their son. They hope that their efforts can be a beacon of hope to youth in the community and help them realize what violence does to families.
“What the perpetrator doesn’t realize at that time is that they’re destroying two families –the victim’s family and also their own family,” said Harriet Ahmad, “They don’t look at it like that. These kids today, they want to be your judge, jury and executioner. They’re picking up more guns than books.”
It seems that once enough funds can be raised to complete the renovation of the building to be the Sultan Jihad Ahmad Foundation’s new home, the space and resources to mentor the communities’ youth can only be beneficial.
“If you got a 5-year-old kid that can get their hands on a gun, that’s ridiculous. These kids should be out there bouncing a ball, reading a book… not playing with guns.”
If it means they can keep guns out of the hands of children and show them what other opportunities are available, they are sure to make more than enough difference.
Visit Sultan Jihad Ahmad Foundation for more information.