Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Born in the wrong zipcode but making his way out!

I know I haven't posted in awhile on my blog but I've had a few requests from some of you out there to let you know what's going on. Let me tell you...I have a doozie of a story. This story goes back to spring of 2011. A lot of the information that I'm speaking about in 2013 was gotten by talking with the student, his admissions officer, mentor and college coach. There was this young man who started coming to one of our basketball programs. This young man is a quiet kid and very unassuming. I started asking other young men I knew about this guy and they all had nothing but positive things to say about this young man. We started to become acquainted and throughout the time we started to develop a relationship. I found out that this young man wanted to attend a very prestigious private college which is located near Pittsburgh. Understanding the school he went to, I didn't have much hope in this young man attending this school. I actually took him to tours of other schools but he kept repeating that he was going to attend this other school. Little did I know but he had been working with a great North Side mentor who was walking him through the process. His grades were decent but his SAT scores weren't close to what the school accepted. Despite this downfall he didn't let this deter him. He kept writing letters to admissions and to the basketball coach saying that he was going to attend this school. The perseverance of this young man was the strongest I've seen in 5 years of doing this. Through that perseverance and several interviews the college decided to let him attend. I was called in to help him secure his financial aid and even worked with the school as they had little to no experience with the Pittsburgh Promise which was a majority of his financial aid. The young man's dream and his mom's desire were working out. Throughout the summer of 2012 I got to know this young man better as he worked in our summer day camp and also played on our basketball teams. Our education director took a chance on him in letting him work in the summer day camp as normally she only hires students who've completed their freshman year of college. This young man didn't disappoint and he made my recommendation of him to work the camp a success. It was finally time for this young man to enter college.... This is where the story starts getting even more interesting. Have you ever had a dream where the reality doesn't match the dream? This is what happened to this young man. As I said before this is one of the top private colleges in America. They compete for Engineering and Computer Science students from MIT and Rochester Institute of Technology. Their niche is they cater to students who want a Christian worldview. A little back story on this young man is he was a good student in high school with an approx. GPA of 3.3. His integrity was far beyond any I've seen of all the youth I've worked with on the North Side as witnessed from a Scholarship program he attended while in high school and his summer day camp experience. He also was able to receive a stipend from the scholarship program he attended which most students used for their proms yet he decided to save it for college as he knew the opportunity that was in front of him. The downside of all these great things was the fact that the high school he attended was at least in the bottom 5% of high schools in the country if not 1%. Despite all his efforts throughout high school he was going to be behind everyone else just because of the circumstances he was born into and the zip code he lived in. Fast forward to the fall of 2012 and the beginning of his freshman year. I was attending a church near the college and I knew a couple who are professors at the university. As this is a small university I asked them if they could keep an eye on this young man and his attitude and progress. A few days later a received a phone call that wasn't great news. I found out that the classes this student enrolled into were probably the wrong ones and to multiply the problems I found out that he wasn't doing well. Myself and his basketball coach from UIF decided drive up there and visit him. We arranged to meet with admissions, my professor friends and the basketball coach. My professor friends helped rearrange his schedule so he was in the proper courses that were the proper gradient for him. They, along with the basketball coach spoke with each of their professors and got buy in that they were going to do all that they could do to bring this young man up to the standards held by the College. This was good news. We then were able to meet with this young man and the coach. (As an aside, while the myself and the UIF coach were waiting in admissions we were watching some of the other prospective students. You need to understand that both of us live and work in the hood. We glance over and see a prospective student, he is wearing penny loafers, khakis and argyles. We feel as though we were transported back to 1982.) This young man walked up to us and we both saw from the look on his face that all wasn't well. He had never been required to do homework in his past previous years in college and he had a load of it. He also spoke about not being able to sleep at night. From my previous relationships with him I knew that he loved taking afternoon naps yet these naps were for 2-3 hours. I convinced him that a nap was 30 minutes and to limit the nap times. We then walked into the lunchroom which happened to be packed with students. Myself and both coaches sat down with this young man. We listened to his frustrations. As we listened, it just sounded like a young man who was away from home for the first time and in a totally different environment. The college coach than came up with a brilliant observation. He told the young student to look around the room and tell him what he saw. This young man told us that he saw a bunch of privileged white kids who were all doing well. The coach called bs on this and then let him know about how most of the students were receiving their first B's, C's, D's and possibly F's for the first time in their life. He then told him to get to know some of them and he will find out how looks can be deceiving. I then realized that he was also going through the same thing, he was not the best at what he was doing for the first time in his life and he needed to once again rise to the top. After hearing this and he kind of smiled and we knew that he was going to live for another day. As the coach and I were leaving the college, we both knew that this young man had a rough road in front of him. Racially he was out of place with about 2% of the people who looked like him. Economically, I can't imagine any other student being lower although I don't have the data for this but I'm pretty sure. He was in for a tough year. Throughout the year I stayed in touch with him. I made sure that he had rides home over the holidays and we had lunch. I was able to visit him and drop of gifts during 3 of his games and was able to get some of his friends to attend. He finished his first semester over a 2.0 and was able to avoid academic probation. Things were looking up. This young man finished his basketball season and then focused all his attention onto his school work. During this time he contacted me concerning working at the Summer Day Camp this year. (Of course) We were able to take a group of our young man to this particular college for a tour and this young man gave a moving Q&A to these young men he's grown up with. Today I was able to pick up this young man after finishing his 1st year in college. He is doing well and his GPA is in a very respectable range. He knows what it takes to be a student now and is ready to move onward and upward next year.


Anonymous said...

Chad B

Imagine this young man's life without God uprooting you and moving you there. Yep, you are a walkin', talkin' chess piece of Jesus on the board. Loving people in action. That's what I think of when I think of you.


Anonymous said...

I love the "God ordained" Sunday at the church out of the hood where He hooked you up with the next two support staff for this young man's team. Once again you intervened, made the connection and He will do the rest.

Behind you all the way!