student Walisha Brown is on her way to greatness. She was honored as the Outstanding High School Senior of the Year by INCS in December 2020 and received a $1,000 scholarship for college, but that is only a part of her story. She will graduate from CICS ChicagoQuest (CQ) in June of this year. CQ is home to the Warriors, both the name of the sports team and the spirit of every student who attends. The students embody the mission of the school which is to engage, challenge and prepare students to impact the world as problem-solvers, designers, critical thinkers and innovators.
Walisha believes in the core values of equity, social connection and full participation. “When I first came into ChicagoQuest, everyone around me was a stranger, the people, teachers, staff and students. I was really shy, and everyone encouraged me to speak-up and to embrace my singing and my love for writing poetry. Even though we are remote learnign now, the staff and students at CQ are still my family. Even now, every day is a new memory.”
While she waits to hear from her college selections, she is grateful for the teachers that have played a role in her academic and emotional life. ‘There are so many teachers I could shout-out. One is Catherine Thornhill, my second-year history teacher and my One Goal teacher during my junior and senior year. She is very uplifting and supportive of me and all students. She wants the best for all of us.” And teachers have also pushed her to reach beyond her comfort zone. “I have always been into ELA and reading but have taken Algebra 2 and Trigonometry. My math teacher, Mr. Latimore, has really helped me in my Trig class, working with me one on one and taking time to teach me eacg problem step by step.”
Even her current thoughts about her major and career goals were influenced by her teachers. In one of her elective classes, Ms. Thornhill talked about the brain, how it works, what triggers it and so on. That elective really got her interested in pursuing medicine as a career though she is still considering three careers, either an OB/GYN, psychologist or lawyer.
Her high school experience has not just been academic. She has made lifelong friends. “I met my best friend Ailaja during my freshman year. I was shy and she got me to open up. She pushed me to persevere through everything and to give it my all. And I thank her for supporting a lot of what I have done and how we have sustained our friendship throughout our years here. I have so many Warrior sisters who have advised me every single moment.” Walisha has also found the time to pursue her creative side. She writes and performs poetry. “I remember the first time I performed at a poetry slam in middle school, then my first Talent Show at CQ; I read a poem and there was so much cheering and energy from the audience, and I loved all of the support from my peers.”
This is a poem Walisha wrote about herself, titled “Components of I.”
I am wings that fly without knowing my destination, without explanation I roam free as the wind applies pressure to push me places I can’t see. Thinking clean, and seeing clear like clean and clear can help clear a face, I’ll push and pass to clear a path not so clean just for me to get through. Soiling underneath and soaking in the liquid I desire, glazed by the sunshine I acquire, and admire because it brings out the bright side of my delicate petals. And my resilience is so brilliant, take a look at my skin from within leaves you clueless to the vernacular I speak on and speak in to begin with. so butterfly me my freedom, because I have the wings to fly away, far away from where I stand today. so stretch my stem from the base of where I was planted. Looked up for hope, having no rope to climb but still given a blessing to receive my sunshine. And as I recover from broken silence, I spring back into action , extracting you from my beautiful peace of mind, because I am my own guidance.
Walisha also participates in the Civitas Community Impact Experience program (CCIE). The program offers students the opportunity to work collaboratively and use their own interests and passions to solve community challenges and earn high school credits as part of the program through their project-based learning. Her project is L.O.V.E., Ladies Of Virtuous Essence. The project commits to entering and exiting each day on a positive note so Black teen girls feel free to express our ideas while exploring talents such as poetry and art to develop our interests and bonds!
She has been able to recruit a team to work with her on this project but also intends on keeping this project going no matter where she goes after graduation. “It has a life of its own. There is so much trauma, harassment and stereotypes of black women and this is to help them put themselves out there. The project is intended to uplift them and shine a light on them.”
Schools are more than locations for learning. The best schools offer a sense of community. “I will always carry Quest with me, and I will forever be a Warrior as I have mighty blood. Quest will always be my second family. My time being at ChicagoQuest has been amazing, and I have built so many bonds that are now unbreakable ”
She leaves these thoughts for the younger classes of students. “Keep persevering. Don’t ever stop, when things get difficult, fight your way through. You’re stronger than you think you are. You’re capable of any and everything despite the challenges that come your way. If you have it set in your mind that you're going to achieve something, then go at it with full force and give it everything you got. Stay focused, believe in yourself, and never say you can’t, because you can excel at anything if you are willing to give it a try, and put the work in. ”