November 13, 2015

Shaunice & Devon: Spotlight on Alumni

For many of our students, there are more obstacles than opportunities when it comes to postsecondary success. Not every student knows their plan for life after high school, how to create a plan, or that a plan could exist. With your support, Umoja works with students, teachers, counselors, and administrators to create a culture of opportunity, potential, guidance, and success--a plan.

Meet Shaunice and Devon, two students currently in their first year of college. Shaunice, a graduate of Manley High School, is attending UIS – University of Illinois at Springfield. Devon, a graduate of Sullivan High School, is attending SUBR – Southern University Agricultural and Medical College at Baton Rouge. Shaunice and Devon had very different experiences developing a postsecondary plan, but they came together this summer when both students were invited by First Lady Michelle Obama to the Reach Higher Summit at the White House. 

shaunice_2.jpgShaunice was an ambitious and determined young lady from the start of high school. She had a college picked out by junior year, after Umoja’s annual spring junior college tour. She knew her plan and utilized resources within her school, like Umoja, to see that plan come to life. She spent significant time in the Umoja Upward Bound office, where she asked our staff about scholarship opportunities, college workshops, or just spent time working on essays and applications. To remain focused, she stayed busy with school activities and academically remained in the top 2% all four years. 



Devon, on the other hand, wasn’t sure where he wanted to go to college. He attended Umoja’s spring college tour as a junior, and again as a senior, but didn’t know how to think about all the options! He worked closely with Sullivan and Umoja staff in Senior Seminar to explore options and make a postsecondary plan. Although he didn’t have the best grades or ACT scores, he knew there was success (and a school) out there for him. Internally, he struggled with words like “potential,” and “talented.” He didn’t want to go to a school that didn’t live up to what so many saw in him or what he saw in himself. He ended up enrolling at SUBR mostly because Sullivan’s assistant principal called the admissions office daily and made a case for why Devon was a good fit!

The first night in D.C. Shaunice and Devon joined Tenzin (Umoja alumnus) and Umoja staff member, Christina, for dinner. Christina asked how they felt about meeting the First Lady. Shaunice, confident in her plan for life after high school, was just plain excited. Devon, still not sure about his college or career decisions, felt more nervous. Shaunice listened to Devon’s concerns and her level of enthusiasm surrounding the college-going experience was infectious. They were able to support each other as they spent the next day with First Lady Michelle Obama and 150 other students from across the country.

It’s not every day that students from the West side or Rogers Park get to hear the First Lady proclaim the necessity of young people pursuing higher education, no matter what plan you have or path you take. 

Shaunice and Devon both started college this fall and love their classes so far. Their paths were different, but that’s what Umoja is all about. With Umoja in their corner, and your support in this work, the opportunities and experiences for all students in all schools are endless.