WYOMING, Mich. (WOOD) — Anthony Lambers dropped out of high school, then spent years in prison. Through it all, there was one man who stuck with him.
Now that his mentor is gone, he wants to continue Richard Pullen’s legacy at Wyoming Public Schools with a scholarship fund.
On Wednesday, Lambers told his story to students at Wyoming Junior High, which used to be Wyoming Park High School.
“I ended up going to prison and I went away for a long time,” Lambers told the students. “So what happened was when I was released, I came back because there was a mentor in this building named Richard Pullen.”
It has been more than a decade since Pullen taught in the building, but he’s still a legend there.
“I met him in my ninth-grade third hour English class and right away he was just really different with me than other teachers were with me. He was patient, always wanted to hear my story,” Lambers said.
That story was a turbulent one. Lambers’ mother was a teenager when she became pregnant. Lambers himself struggled with drug abuse and was involved in violent crimes. At 19, he committed one that landed him behind bars for six years.
“That was a gas station robbery that I did in the middle of the night. I don’t really even think it was about money. I was really mad at life at the time. I remember just being really upset at how my life was and where I was going,” Lambers said.
Pullen, or “RP,” as students called him, was the only one who stuck by him, helping him figure out how to turn his life around even while he was in prison.
“He was quiet and then he was just like, ‘Hey, well, it’s already happened. We have to get by it now. So the play is done, we got to move on and figure out what the next step is.’ And he kind of did that all the way until he passed,” Lambers said.
Pullen lost his battle to colon cancer in 2015.
He wrote something in his obituary that moved Lambers deeply.
“My boy called me was like, ‘Did you see it?” I said, ‘Nah, I didn’t even look.’ And he said, ‘Man, he called you his son in the obituary.’ And for me that was like that was it. ‘Cause for me, you thought about me till the very last second of your life? So that’s what I’m doing with this scholarship, ’cause I’m giving everything that I’ve got for the rest of my life back to this area, this school and this district, teachers the students,” Lambers said.
Now 41 years old and a successful real estate agent at @Home Realty in Grand Haven, Lambers is trying to do for others what Pullen did for him. He’s working to organize a scholarship program that will give out some $50,000.
“I want to help with your future,” he told students Wednesday. “So I want everybody to work hard, do all the things that you need to do in school and maybe one day you can get this RP scholarship to help you in college.”
To help fund the scholarship program, Lambers is hosting the second annual Backspin 2.0 dance party May 7. It runs 7 p.m. to midnight at the JW Marriott in downtown Grand Rapids. Tickets are $65 and are available online.
You can also donate to the scholarship fund at RPScholarship.org.
Lambers also donates 10 percent of his commission to the RP Scholarship Fund and regularly speaks to classes and volunteers in Wyoming and Muskegon school districts. He also coaches a basketball team called RP Scholars.
Once the $50,000 is raised, it will go to the Grand Rapids Community Foundation. That organization’s board will review applicants and make selections for recipients based on criteria Lambers and the board will decide.
Lambers’ goal is to continue expanding the program by adding another two districts next year and an additional $50,000.