RISE has gotten to know several hundred students at McKinley Tech over the past two years. One student in particular has stood out for us, a young student athlete named Jamal. I first met Jamal in A.P. Physics. Jamal always asked the extra question, never satisfied with just the answer. Here is his story.
I am the first person in my family to graduate high school, and thus I am on the path to be a first-generation college graduate. My mother dropped out of high school, and later got a GED. Because of her limited education, she has never worked a full-time job. My first job I got was at the age of 14 where I worked at a Property Management company name William C. Smith delivering papers, and I have worked hard ever since to relieve pressure from my family economic situation. I have never met my father, but I believe I embody what a real man should look and act like.
My current and past living situations have never been easy. With an environment filled with drugs and violence, it was struggle for me and my family to stay away from the influence of participating in such a lifestyle. My mother always instilled in me and all my siblings that education is of the utmost importance. This is why I worked hard in high school to maintain a GPA over 3.0 while participating in several clubs/organizations and being a star football player in the city. I always wanted to pursue education after high school. I am the sixth child and youngest child that my mother gave birth to. Being the first in my family to graduate from college will be tremendous and give me the chance to provide a better future for my family, while ensuring that my kids never have to witness and live through some of the trauma that I witnessed in my life.
During my senior year, I realized I will be able to pursue a degree at the prestigious Morehouse College where I intend to become President of the student body one day. All the trials and tribulations that I have faced all helped lead to enhanced leadership skills, more involvement in my community, and the need to not only excel inside the classroom but outside.
Through all the difficulties, I continue to smile every single day because one can not live a positive life with a negative mindset. One day I hope to inspire those from my community who just like me did not have opportunities, to show them the same water that hardens the egg softens the potato. Your environment does not suggest who you are, only you can.