Recently, Chicago has become such an epicenter for senseless acts of violence, sadness and despair that we forget that there is goodness and inspiration to be found in that city. Here are two recent stories that embody the true essence of overcoming the obstacles of your environment and beating the odds to come out on top.
Dr. Garland Thomas-McDavid, principal of Chicago’s Johnson College Prep, located in the South Side Chicago neighborhood of Englewood. Over 90% of its students are black and over 90% come from families that make little enough income for the students to qualify for free/reduced price lunch. On June 9th, this charter school made history when 100% of its graduating class received and accepted offers to attend four-year colleges.
In a recent Black Enterprise interview, Dr. Thomas-McDavid stated that a large part of the school’s success comes from the flexibility they have as a charter school to create academic plans that address their students’ main problematic areas, bolstering their chances of getting into college. Social workers and counselors are available for guidance, reading deficits are met with intense work in this area, college trips are planned for motivation, community service is required to help make them well-rounded individuals and a slew of other offerings are available to aid the students in their academic and personal development.
In other great news, a young man by the name of Krishaun Branch was a member of Urban Prep’s (another charter school in Englewood) first graduating class of young men who are ALL heading to college in 2010. Branch’s childhood consisted of gangs, drugs and other delinquent activities, setting him up for a life on the streets. He even dropped out of Urban Prep for a bit to continue down this path until a friend of his met a tragic end when he was beaten to death.
That event, coupled with the continued encouragement of Urban Prep’s staff, convinced Branch to re-enroll and take his future serioiusly. His D grades improved to As and Bs and upon graduation, he enrolled at Fisk University. This month, Branch became the first college graduate of Urban Prep, beating the odds with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology. He plans to go back to his neighborhood to help show other young men that education is the true way to get out of their current situations.
Branch’s story is like many other untold stories of motivational young men and women beating the odds and overcoming it all to build a new life for themselves. Individuals like Dr. Thomas-McDavid are our unsung heroes, helping to pave the way for our disadvantaged youth.
Let’s do our best to bring more of these stories to the light and help more of these students and teachers in their fight.