by Mike Donovan, PBMR
This spring I received a call from Chante requesting assistance and advice about getting into college. I’ve mentored her brother for the last eight years, so I readily agreed to meet with her at Precious Blood Center in Chicago the following week.
Chante knew what she wanted. She wanted out of her house, out of the neighborhood, and wanted to go away for college very much, preferably as far from Chicago as possible. Age 18, she was a senior attending a local Chicago public high school on the South Side, so I knew from the start that her educational foundation was shaky at best. Not surprisingly, her college entrance examination scores were low, but as she told me her story, I had no doubt she could succeed in college if given the opportunity.
Chante’s neighborhood is plagued by poverty and violence, with many shootings this summer within two blocks of her home. Amazingly, Chante has persevered, going to school and working at a local McDonald’s. Other than work or school, she rarely leaves the house because it’s not safe.
Chante’s mother has mixed feeling about her going away to college, but her goal of becoming a registered nurse was not going to be met at any local city college in Chicago. We discussed the application process, financial aid, and explored several four-year, in-state universities with nursing programs. She applied and was accepted at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, about 20 miles east of St. Louis. With financial aid, college work-study, a small student loan, and some help from our ministry, Chante was ready to go to orientation in July. I drove her down for the two-day program, and was impressed by the school’s beautiful campus, diversity, and hospitality. It was clear from everyone we met there that they would be dedicated to her success. I was confident that Chante’s hard work and determination would be rewarded at this university.
On August 14, we packed the last of her stuff in my car, and she said her goodbyes to her mother and sister. As if she didn’t need another reason to leave the neighborhood, a young man who Chante knew very well from her street was shot and wounded the night before. It really was time to go.
Since school began, we’ve texted back and forth, and so far she loves the school, her classes, and is adjusting to college life. She’s moving forward to a new beginning.
(Amidst so much strife, there are moments of joy and reasons to celebrate. Chante is one of several youth of PBMR who are in college this fall. )