As we begin 2023, thousands of youths have found healing and hope at Boys Town and gone on to live happy, productive lives. We are proud of all our alumni and the successes they enjoy every day. In honor of Black History Month, we wanted to shine a spotlight on a few who we are proud to call our alumni – and to those who we support and cheer on as they pursue their dreams and make a difference in the world today.
The Inspirational Stories of Boys Town's Accomplished Alumni
Shaquil Barrett, '10
Shaquil Barrett composed an outstanding resume as an athlete at Boys Town, but it is what he has done after graduating that has placed him on the national sports scene. Barrett was an all-state football player and state-champion wrestler for the Cowboys. After graduation, he began his college football career at Nebraska-Omaha, before it dropped its program and he transferred to Colorado State University. He was named Mountain West Conference defensive player of the year as a senior at CSU in 2013. Barrett went undrafted in the 2014 NFL Draft, but the Denver Broncos signed him to a contract that summer. He played for Denver from 2014 to 2018 and won a Super Bowl championship with the Broncos during the 2015 season. Barrett signed a free agent contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2019 and led the NFL with 19 ½ sacks. He was selected for the Pro Bowl and was second team All-Pro. In 2021, he won a second Super Bowl ring with the Buccaneers. In 2022, in his 9th year in the league, Barrett suffered a torn Achilles tendon in week 8 and was lost for the season. He had a successful surgery and is expected to be ready for the 2023 regular season with the Bucs.
Moniece Jackson, '08
After suffering through unspeakable abuse, Moniece Jackson fled from multiple foster placements, landed in juvenile detention and eventually found Boys Town North Florida in 2005. It was there that she began the healing process and found the strength to develop and pursue her dreams. After completing her treatment at Boys Town, she began her career as the resident director for Wisdom's Wellspring in Tallahassee, Florida, a residential facility for young women who are at high-risk for dependency. While working full-time, she also completed her master's degree in both Social Work and Public Administration. Today, she is working at Family Preservation Community Services in South Carolina where she recruits, licenses and trains foster care parents. In her first year on the job, she secured 15 new foster parents, more than doubling her original goal of six. In her spare time, Moniece has been working hard to develop her own non-profit called Intentional Hope, focused on helping youth ages 13-21 learn independent living skills to help them survive in the real world. She also aspires to someday write a youth self-help book that focuses on learning necessary independent skills to succeed in a complicated world.
Clarence Walker, '76
Walker is a former mayor of Boys Town and is now a Bilingual Outreach and Enrollment Specialist with the Indiana Health Centers in South Bend, IN. After graduating from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, he spent 3 ½ years in the Peace Corps in Ecuador and then remained for an additional four years as a Catholic missionary assisting with troubled youth and helping with agricultural programs. While at Boys Town, he was privileged to meet Mother (now Saint) Theresa and she had a profound influence on his life. He has worked in social services in South Bend with their homeless population.
Ken Geddes, '66
Geddes was one of 17 children when his mother passed away in 1962 in Jacksonville, Florida. In coming to Boys Town, he found the home and family he was looking for. He was an incredible athlete and was a member of Boys Town's state championship basketball teams in 1965 and 1966 and the state championship football team in 1965. He also claimed a state championship medal as a member of the mile relay team in track. On the gridiron, he earned All-American and All-State honors before accepting a football scholarship to the University of Nebraska where he twice earned All-Big 8 honors. Geddes was inducted into the University of Nebraska Football Hall of Fame in 1996, the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame in 2005 and the Nebraska Black Athlete Sports Hall of Fame in 2007. He was drafted by the Detroit Lions of the NFL, but after not making the team returned to Nebraska to finish his degree. After graduating, he signed with the Los Angeles Rams and played for them until he was selected in the veterans' expansion draft by the Seattle Seahawks. It was in Seattle that he continued to excel on the playing field and found a permanent home.
Melvin Hamilton, '65
Hamilton was an outstanding athlete at Boys Town and excelled in football, track and wrestling. He was a leader off the field, as well, serving as mayor. He was a member of the nationally ranked, undefeated 1963 football squad. He went on to earn a football scholarship to the University of Wyoming. He was inducted into the Wyoming Athletic Hall of Fame as a member of the 10-1 football team of 1966. Hamilton and several of his teammates were catapulted into the national spotlight as part of the famous “Black 14" when they took a stand against racism in 1969. Hamilton went on to complete his education at Wyoming and worked in the glass and oil industry before returning to Wyoming as an educator. Over the next 29 years, he rose from classroom teacher to become a counselor, vice principal, principal and central service administrator for the school district in Casper. The Governor of Wyoming appointed Hamilton to the Wyoming State Parole board where he served as Vice Chairman and the first African American to be appointed to the board. He has served in numerous public positions. He received the Father Flanagan Distinguished Alumnus Award, the highest honor the Boys Town National Alumni Association can bestow.
Wilburn Hollis, '58
Hollis was an outstanding athlete at Boys Town, leading the football team as quarterback. After graduation, he was awarded a scholarship to play quarterback for the University of Iowa from 1959–1961 and was one of the first African Americans to earn All-American honors at quarterback. He led the Hawkeyes to a Big Ten championship as a junior in 1960 and was named a second team All-American that season. He later joined the United Fire Group where he served as Vice President of Human Resources.
August B. “Buddy" Hogan, '57 (Deceased)
Hogan came to Boys Town in the early 1950s to escape the racism and discrimination that prevented him from attending school. After five and a half years, he left to attend St. Augustine Seminary in Bay St. Louis, Missouri. He later earned a bachelor's degree in Latin and a master's degree in business administration from Creighton University. Hogan managed the first private sector, federally sponsored job training program in the state of Nebraska for Mutual of Omaha from 1968 through 1970. In 1973, then-Mayor and future U.S. senator Edward Zorinsky, appointed Hogan to his cabinet as director of the Human Relations Department. In 1976, Hogan was elected treasurer of the Omaha NAACP. He also served as President of the Omaha NAACP for seven years before relocating to Van Nuys, California, in 1988. In the late 1980s, he developed the membership software program that has been used by more than 200 NAACP affiliates. Hogan died June 3, 2018.
Vernon J. Baker, '33 (Deceased)
Baker came to Boys Town at age 11 following the death of his parents in 1930. Father Flanagan urged him to make some friends, so he joined the band, taking up the drums. When an Omaha restaurant refused to serve the African American band members, the band director promptly confronted the owner and took all the boys out of the restaurant and to a place where they all could be served. Baker admired the band director for making a stand against racism. After graduating from eighth grade in 1933, Vernon left Boys Town and continued his schooling at Clarinda (Iowa) High School, graduating with honors in 1939. When World War II began, Baker enlisted in the Army and was part of an all-black infantry regiment. In action in Italy, Baker, a second lieutenant, destroyed three German machine gun positions, two bunkers and an observation post. For his heroism, he belatedly received the Medal of Honor, presented to him and six others, posthumously, by President Clinton at a White House ceremony. When the war ended, Baker was the most highly decorated black soldier in the Mediterranean Theater. Today, he is the only living black World War II soldier to have received the prestigious award. Baker passed away on July 13, 2010, and is buried in the Medal of Honor section of Arlington National Cemetery.