My story starts long before mine, it starts with my parents. My parents didn’t finish high school or go to college, but they wanted the best for their son; that is why I am thankful for educational choice. I was born and raised in Milwaukee, WI. I grew up in the 53206 zip code, where the crime rate is higher than the graduation rate. Where I come from, they say that by the time you are 18, you’ll either be dead or in jail.
My environment considered a barrier, but I also have the same story as many African American young men my age – I didn’t have my father growing up. My dad was incarcerated. But, I didn’t allow even that to lock me up and put me away from being the greatest I could be. Despite the odds never being in my favor, I still managed to rise above all the “noise”, because I had access to the education of choice, my parent’s choice.
I was only able to attend HOPE Christian High School through the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program. Many schools in my district are more effective at preparing students for jail than they are at sending them to college. If it weren’t for my school and my teachers, I wouldn’t be the man I am today. It was there that I met my rolemodels and champions. My teachers always believed in me and inspired me to be the best version of myself.
All these circumstances in my life most would consider them pitfalls; I understand them as a chance to be better. I see my background as a strength and a reminder that I do not have to become a product of my enviorment. If it had not been for choice schools like HOPE, I wouldn’t have had the exposure I needed to get to where I am today. Like many in my community, it is very likely I would have confined myself to low expectations. It is because of my school and their support system that I graduated as Co-Valedictorian in the middle of a pandemic. Without HOPE, I would not have even had the thought of going to college because the schools in my community never emphasized the need to go to college. Going to a choice school positioned me to be great now and forever.
Now I am attending Marquette University as the first in my family to attend college; I am studying business administration and educational studies. I apspire to be an agent of change and a role model, especially for young black men like myself. Your circumstances should not define anyone or how far they can go, which is why I advocate for school choice.