Christina Waters’s cellphone rang, and she looked down to see that the number was blocked. She knew immediately it was U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, just calling to check in.
It has been that way since Waters attended a 2009 church picnic in Chicago and came away with a bullet lodged in her head from stray gunfire. She suffered hearing loss in one ear, and her college dreams were delayed. But she pushed forward, with encouragement from Duncan, who has known her since elementary school. Now 24, Waters is studying kinesiology at Sam Houston State University in Texas.
Waters belongs to a circle of strivers that Duncan has quietly cultivated, students across the country who are clearing hurdles that would discourage many others. He calls regularly to offer support and advice.