• Rayshawn Powell, GBDF Youth Advisor

Life’s New Path:  From High School Onto College

“I am pleased to inform you that the Admissions Committee has selected you for admission to Morehouse College for the fall semester, 2017. This opportunity to join one of the most dynamic and talented academic communities in the world comes in recognition of your academic and personal achievements. Your application was selected from a competitive applicant pool of scholars, and we are confident that you will contribute and thrive at Morehouse.”

Four years ago, I never would have thought that I could get an acceptance into Morehouse College. I took high school as a huge joke starting off, but my freshman year English teacher helped me reach for my life quick, fast, and in a hurry. I don't remember much from freshman year, but if I ever had the opportunity to go back and start everything again, I would. I don't think students today really understand how starting off strong can impact you as much as a strong finish. Freshman year of high school is like building the foundation for a house. You want to start strong so everything else can stand, but unfortunately for some people, it doesn't start so strong and along the way you have to make changes to make sure you end a success.

Through my years at KIPP, I've traveled and toured a lot of places that some students in my community could only dream of. From watching Broadway shows in New York to skiing down mountains in West Virginia, learning more at Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site in Atlanta, to teaching native Spanish speakers English in Guatemala. I've been blessed with so many opportunities to not only learn, but teach.

As a high schooler, I had the opportunity to travel to Guatemala. Traveling abroad is a real eye opener to the privilege and wealth that our country has compared to some countries that are still trying to make their way up. While in Guatemala, I was able to get a clear view and a clear taste of what is happening in the country. We visited a school that was named for the parable of the starfish, which starts with a boy on a beach surrounded by starfish that are dying in the sun. When he is questioned about the difference he is able to make given the throng of starfish on the beach, he tosses a starfish back into the ocean and says, “I made a difference to that one!” In Guatemala, young ladies are not likely to attend school, so Starfish was designed to empower these girls and show them the power of an education. Though there are thousands of young women who lack an education, educating one will make a difference in the end. While at Starfish, I was a motivator, and I was motivated by them. My service was to push their English speaking skills, and they pushed me in my Spanish speaking skills. While exchanging language skills, we talked about the struggles we all face. They were shocked by what I face as a young black man because they had the impression that since I was born in the U.S., I do not have any hardships. And for them, they live in a society that does not care if women are educated or not. Seeing these young women fight for social justice made me even more passionate to continue the fight for social justice in my community. It was empowering to be reminded of the difference each person is capable of making.

The work that I have done over the years as a KIPP student has been remarkable. I have been the Cross Country and Track Assistant Coach for the past two years. Being able to help coach two sports that I love is rewarding, and playing a key role in others’ success, such as making it to State Finals, is exhilarating. The work I’ve put in through my time in the peanut fields has made me more appreciative of everything I’ve been able to experience. One thing I will take away from KIPP and the Gregory B. Davis Foundation (GBDF) is that serving others is a lot more rewarding than simply trying to please myself. Seeing the joy on the faces of other people because of something I’ve done makes me want to do more. KIPP has helped shape my life goal of helping more minority children have the opportunity to get to the college of their choice. GBDF has helped shape other goals such as the health and well-being of the community that I'm leaving for college and my soon to be campus community.

I seriously thought about attending Morehouse College, but unfortunately, the money was a huge issue. I would have had to take out a $37,000 Parent PLUS Loan to attend Morehouse, so I realized it was not a good fit for me. In the fall of 2017, I will be attending North Carolina Central University (NCCU), where I plan to study Political Science and minor in Spanish. I want to change how people view minorities because there are a lot of talented individuals in my community who could make it in college, but they don't think they can because of how much college costs and how complicated the application processes can be. I want to create a program that gets to some of the root causes of why young black men don’t enroll in college. My future goals align closely to how Obama describes one of his top priorities: “You have young men of color in many communities who are more likely to end up in jail or in the criminal justice system than they are in a good job or in college. And, you know, part of my job, that I can do, I think, without any potential conflicts, is to get at those root causes.” Just like the parable of the starfish, each child counts, and if I can make a difference in the life of just one young man in my community, I have succeeded.


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