PHILADELPHIA (WTXF) - 33-year-old Brandon Bruce remembers well the happier times growing up in Philadelphia with his twin brother Terrell and younger brother Nathaniel. Like all little boys, they had hopes and dreams.
But 8 years ago, Nathaniel-- just 20 at the time-- drowned while on a college service mission trip to Guatemala. And last December 27th-- on what would've been Nathaniel's birthday-- Terrell was shot to death while driving an SUV in Philadelphia. Police say his female passenger was charged with murder.
Bruce could have reacted by wallowing in self-pity. Instead, he set to work continuing the college scholarship program honoring Nathaniel and starting a new scholarship in tribute to his murdered twin.
"For me it wasn't really a choice," Bruce told FOX 29's Bruce Gordon. "I felt like I feel like I had an obligation-- not only to my twin brother Terrell but also to my little brother Nate."
"We are gathered here today," said Farah Jimenez of the Philadelphia Education Fund as she opened this year's scholarship ceremony in Center City Monday night, "because one man of great character chose to turn the scars, well-written on his heart, into promise and opportunity."
Bruce- now an attorney in Washington-- came back to his hometown to bestow scholarships on six Philly high school seniors-$500 each to four kids in honor of Nathaniel and $1102.83 to two students as part of a new scholarship honoring his Terrell. (that dollar figure represents Terrell's birthdate.) The students are an impressive bunch; all of them aware of the back-story behind the checks they received.
"The first thing I thought was, like, wow!" Said Madison Mullen, who will attend Penn State-Abington this Fall. "When I heard that they had gone to our school (Roxborough high school) and the history that the brothers had together, it just touched my heart."
Yanique Walters will attend East Stroudsburg, and told Gordon, "It just opened my eyes to see that if they could do it and make it so far, I could do it too, and make it even farther and show my potentials."
"I didn't even look at the amount," said Isaiah Woodard, who'll attend Indiana University of Pennsylvania. "It's actually very honorable to know that a man died behind it and has his name on the scholarship."
Bruce says the scholarships are meant to be more than a check, a handshake and 'good luck.'
He and his foundation will remain in touch with the students.
And the kids will be expected to do their part as well.
"It's on them," he says, "in terms of being the next generation of people who go forward, start their own foundations start their own scholarships mentor give back to the community and become their own success stories."
For Bruce, the heartache is not over just yet. Terrell's accused killer has not yet gone to trial. But he says his slain brother's motto lies behind each scholarship: "Be the change you want the world to be."