Local radio personality dedicates life to keeping kids on track
Terrence "City" Sigers half-heartedly admitted he works too hard. As the 7 p.m. to midnight disc jockey for top Columbus radio station Power 107.5, he has enough on his to-do list. Yet he finds time to routinely visit local elementary, middle and high schools for the City School Tour to talk to kids about overcoming obstacles by drawing on the tough times he faced while growing up in Columbus.
A former high school teacher and coach, City visits and speaks for free at the schools, using his real life experience, blunt speech, outgoing approach and celebrity status to reach kids on a level few adults can.
"I talk to them about making better decisions, staying positive. I talk to them about drugs, gangs," City said. "I was never in a gang, but I ask them 'what are the benefits of a gang'? Do they have medical? Dental?'" He goes on to say that he has kids raise their hands and keep them up in response to several questions, including: "Do you know someone in a gang?" and "Have you known someone lost to gang violence?" He then asks kids tougher questions about whether the gang took care of the family after the person's death and if the gang took care of the family for the rest of their lives - and watches all the hands fall. Through this simple exercise, City shows kids that joining a gang has no real benefits.
City sees the school tour simply as an opportunity to help others, while his colleagues see it as an inspiring display of sacrifice and dedication. "City's message about his past and perseverance is crucial for kids to hear because it's encouraging, and it teaches kids to never give up on any of their dreams," said Paul Strong, Power 107.5 morning show host and City's mentor. "No one gives you anything. You have to believe in yourself and make things happen for yourself."
Jeff Wilson, general manager of Radio One, 107.5's parent company, talked about how City's dedication is a perfect fit for the station's commitment to the Columbus community. "We have a creed at RadioOne that says nothing about radio and everything about serving the community. To see City taking to the streets every day is humbling and rewarding," Wilson said. "We work very hard [at Radio One] and one of my favorite lines to use is 'We go to bed tired, but we sleep well.' "
"I feel like I haven't worked in five years," City said. "I love coming in [the radio station], then I get to go out and give back." City said he often visits two or three schools a day, does some work at the station, then a DJ gig. Some days don't end until 3 a.m.; only to start the same hectic schedule over again at 7 the next morning.
The City School Tour started when both City and his former Power 107.5 co-host John Blaze realized that Columbus-area kids were listening more to them than anyone else in their lives. "Our numbers were crazy for the teen demographic. We just started contacting the schools and, being a former teacher, I had contacts within the schools and we just started going out. It grew into something bigger from there," City said.
Since his school tour started in 2005, City has been to about one-third of the Columbus area schools including the suburban areas, and his goal is to visit each one this upcoming year. City said seeing both of his parents work hard and sacrifice for their family is his inspiration. "I've been working since I was 7 years old with my dad cleaning buildings. I've just always been that way," he said. "I used to play football, and one time I won the game - I caught an interception - and everybody was all happy and went out afterward and I went to work," City said with a laugh. "It's kind of a rough way to grow up, but it taught me a sense of work."
That work ethic is what strikes Wilson and Strong as City's most important contribution to the community. "No one told him to do [the school tour]," Wilson said. "This is all on his free time. It has been so rewarding to see the effort he put into it. He's so amazingly engaging; he will be talking to the group and yet communicating with each kid. He'll remember them later; he'll remember the one-on-one he had with them, and he'll follow up to make sure they are keeping themselves out of trouble."
"His achievements are due to his hard work and focus," Strong said. "When he puts his mind to something, he doesn't stop until he reaches that goal. I love being around people like that. It encourages me to continue to work hard, set goals and reach those goals."
When asked what one thing he would tell kids, City said, "Life is full of paper doors. Don't be afraid to knock them down and get what you want." He cautioned kids to not let obstacles, including ones they put in front of themselves, stop them from reaching their goals.
City also advised parents to stay involved in their kids' lives, and to start when they are young. Many parents think a lot of issues begin in high school when these issues actually start in middle school, he said. "If your kid is telling you to leave them alone, you're doing your job," he said.
"I just love doing this. It's an honor to be able to come into people's lives. They listen to my story and I feel like if I inspire one, -I'd like to get them all - but if I can get one, I've basically done my job. Because that one is going to [inspire] another one sooner or later."
Terreece M. Clarke has been a published freelance writer since 1999 for a variety of websites, magazines and newspapers. Terreece lives in Columbus with her husband, two daughters and is expecting her third child this month.
To schedule the City School Tour at your school, contact Power 107.5 at (614) 487-1444.