Living My Potential: From the West Side of Chicago to the White House

By: Darius Wesley

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Darius Wesley at the 2015 Beating the Odds Summit.

Growing up on the West Side of Chicago, Illinois, the last thing that people talked about was going to school to get an education. As a first generation student in a household of seven children, going to college was not expected nor encouraged, but I considered it to be very important. I have overcome adversity that would be unimaginable to some, and I have worked hard to not become a product of my environment.

I started my college career at Southern Vermont College in the fall of 2014. Going to rural Vermont from the inner-city of Chicago was scary for me — it was all so new. However, I did not shy away from the experiences that lay ahead. I finished my freshmen year at Southern Vermont with a 3.2 G.P.A and then transferred to Cleveland State University to continue pursuing my degree in Business Administration.

I can’t help but take a step back and reflect on my sophomore year as a college student. At the beginning of the semester, I had many mixed emotions because I really did not know what my year was going to be like. Here I was starting at a new college without my old friends in a totally different city and environment. Despite challenges, I was determined to keep going to school. During my college experience, one thing remained constant in my life: my support system. I knew that there were people wishing the best for me. Hearing their motivational words and knowing that I could do whatever I put my mind to inspired me to finish strong. I believe this is a major feat for an African American male in this day in age, especially when there are so many distractions that could keep me from reaching my goal. Finishing strong also allows me to reach back and help students like myself. It makes me grateful for the many teachers, counselors, and mentors that have encouraged me thus far. This year has taught me that I must put forth extra efforts to make all those who contributed to my future proud of what I’ve accomplished. This fall, I’m looking forward to starting my junior year at Cleveland State University.

There are far too many students who just don’t have the support needed to get to the next level. I am very grateful for the opportunity to be an alum of the Beating the Odds Summit — I spoke on a student panel last year and am excited to participate again next week. The upcoming Beating the Odds Summit will be very special, bringing together students like myself from all walks of life who have overcome obstacles and challenges with persistence and determination. I am eager to hear everyone’s stories and will be glad to share my experiences and give tips on how they can successfully transition to college.

Michelle Obama’s college access campaign that celebrates higher education and elevates the voices of Gen-Z students. @BetterMakeRoom →

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