CICS Basil, Class of 2007
CICS Ralph Ellison, Class of 2011
Howard University, Class of 2015
My father is a carpenter, and my mother is a police dispatcher for the city. They’re both from the South Side. My father went to trade school, and my mother is in college now- she decided she wanted to go back to school and get her degree. She and I will graduate at the same time, actually.
I went to CICS Basil in the fourth grade. One of the things I remember was that they introduced character traits that we would learn about each week, and that helped a lot: I was not just learning academically, but growing as a person, growing in character. I did a lot of extracurriculars at CICS Basil, including basketball and public speaking. We had a lot of support from teachers—they were always willing to stay after school and help me with whatever I needed. For example, our principal, Gloria Hall, was always around and helping in a lot of different capacities. She was more than just an administrator, and she was a lot more involved than a typical principal.
"I was not just learning academically, but growing as a person, growing in character."
I was not at all nervous to go to high school at CICS Ralph Ellison— it was an easy transition. I knew a lot of the people, and was with a lot of my old classmates. It was just like transitioning to another grade level.
At Ellison, I was on the debate team, I was captain of the basketball team, I played baseball for two years, and was also a student ambassador. It was the same kind of nurturing environment with an open-door policy for students to talk to teachers. The test prep at CICS Ralph Ellison was also very helpful—especially with my ACT scores. I came in at a 19, and left at a 27. That preparation was a huge boost for getting into college.
We really started learning about college our junior year, doing research and talking about schools with our teachers. We would have to do presentations about different schools so we’d know all of our options. When researching colleges to apply to, I went to a lot of college fairs—Ralph Ellison even had a college fair just for our school. I was especially interested in University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; Moorehouse College; and Howard University.
Howard University was my number one choice—I’d wanted to go there since third or fourth grade. It was sort of a staple in my family and community, and everybody always spoke highly of Howard. After I got in, Ellison definitely helped me transition to Howard. I even took four AP classes, passed all the tests, and came to Howard with a few credits already. From the moment I got to Howard, nothing has caught me off guard. Though the workload has been a little heavier, I have not been surprised by the material and feel prepared for all of my classes. I was definitely ready for life in college beyond the academics as well. I’ve been involved at school since I got here. I became the president of the largest all-male organization on campus , and I’m the president of student affairs for our student government association.
This past summer, it was special to be able to come back and intern at Chicago International Charter School, especially because I was so involved with the schools. I want to stay in Chicago, and I think I might go to school for educational policy. To be able to see how charter schools function and to get that hands-on experience was really useful for my future career. After graduation, I see myself going to my community and giving back, in the sense of being a politician or a civil servant. I want to be an alderman, so I’m able to live in the same neighborhood that I grew up in, but also give back from a policy point of view. I think Basil and Ralph Ellison definitely shaped that choice. My family is 100% pleased with my progress in college, and are sometimes shocked at how high I keep going. They’re very happy with the trajectory of my life so far.
"After graduation, I see myself going to my community and giving back..."
My advice for current students is to be goal-oriented. Have a goal in mind, even when you’re young. Your goals may change, and if they do, just make sure you’re planning appropriately because in the long term, it’s great to have these goals. You should also always give back in some form, no matter whether it’s donating to charity or volunteering your time, you should always give back.