CICS Ralph Ellison, Class of 2011
Ohio State University, Class of 2015
I’m the first in my family to attend a four-year university. I grew up on the south side of Chicago in a single-parent household—it was just my mom, my younger sister, my older brother, and me. My mom has been an accountant for over twenty years, and she’s been my number one influence. I attended CICS Ralph Ellison from 2007-2011, and one of the things I appreciated the most was the familial atmosphere. All of the teachers at CICS Ralph Ellison played vital roles in my education and made me motivated to succeed. My principal, Dr. Wilson, was an important part of my progress—since he and I came from similar backgrounds, he served as a very positive black male role model for me.
"If I could have started school a month after I graduated, I would have."
My favorite subject was always math, and I was pretty good at the sciences. Reading took more time for me, but I managed. One of the things teachers put the most emphasis on was being prepared for college. Starting from freshman year, we took practice ACT exams to become more familiar with the content. Our teachers also spent time making sure that we knew what college consisted of, and what the environment would be like for us, socially and mentally. Our preparatory period was some of the strongest academic building I’ve ever had—it taught me how to think on my feet, and think out of the box.
Most of all, it was the personal interactions and developments that set me up for college. The time that teachers took to help us outside of their academic schedules was so helpful. I think you can appreciate college more if you’ve gone through that high school journey and you come fully prepared. What ultimately made me choose Ohio State University was the level of interaction the school had with me, even before I applied. They shared insights directly from current students, and that encouraged me to want to explore the school a lot more. Within the first five minutes of my first tour, I knew I had seen my perfect match. If I could have started school a month after I graduated, I would have. My teachers had been building it up as one of the greatest experiences of life, and I was very confident that CICS Ralph Ellison prepared me for whatever was in store. Since 2012, I have been on the hip-hop dance team, involved with the college of business, volunteering with Pay it Forward, fundraising for cancer research, serving as an orientation leader, and am currently the president of the Black Student Association. Within my school community, I try to give the students ways of understanding others—even though I’m at a very diverse university not everybody has the mental ability to step back and think about what other people go through.
At home, I plan to in some way reach out to younger students. I’ve been dancing since I was very young, and it’s my dream to open my own studio. This dance studio would be a place that adolescents could come to, and engage with the arts before they get to college so that when get there, they will feel prepared for new cultural experiences. My former teachers at CICS Ralph Ellison are a big part of why I want to give back. I still speak to a number of staff at Ellison that helped me, and they’ve given me the opportunity to help other students as well. Being in college, I can say that I might spend a significant amount of time as a teacher later on, to make sure that I’m influencing people in some capacity, that I’m that black male figure who is inspiring to people in need.
"College is a time for you to be yourself, know yourself, and own yourself."
One piece of advice that I would give current students is that college is an experience where you don’t come in already knowing yourself. College is a time for you to open your eyes to new experiences. Your mind is open, your heart is open, and you want to give back. These experiences enhance you as a person.
College is a time for you to be yourself, know yourself, and own yourself.