By Cameron Green, Huston-Tillotson University
Cameron was a student speaker at this year's Summer Institute at Dallas 2. Below is his speech.
Although I was raised in a place where the unexpected often happened, the idea of graduating from high school always seemed impossible. This mindset made it difficult for the adults in my life to support the education of a young African-American male from the streets of Baltimore City. Staying in the hood and not going outside of Baltimore to further your learning opportunities is the status quo. This way of thinking also promotes the downfall for inner-city youth, by not allowing them to see their potential to achieve more.
Baltimore is rough. The people, the drug-infested areas, and even the violence, all contribute to that roughness. Last year, 233 people were murdered in Baltimore; more than half of them were under the age of 25. It is hard to get out of the city, especially when all you see and hear is negativity. Also last year, 603 African-American males dropped out of school. Only 1,700 males graduated from this school district. Unfortunately, many would consider this acceptable, and, sadly, it is even better than many districts across the country.
As in many large, urban districts, the struggle for the administration is to just get students through to graduation, and too often students move through the system without being fully prepared for life beyond high school. That was the case with me. I failed my biology state exam twice, and instead of giving me the support I needed to pass it, I was simply given an assisted project to get the credit.
In Baltimore, it felt like no one believed in the students. We were told that if we did manage to graduate, we would not be successful, or be accepted into a four-year college. But, those comments motivated me even more to break through the barriers and graduate.
In all honesty, when I left Baltimore, my only thought was about leaving home. My senior year of high school was a breeze for me. I had two classes, and was heavily involved in extracurricular activities and work. Homework, however, was the last thing on my mind. Just getting by was enough for me, and I carried this mentality with me when I moved from Baltimore to Austin to attend Huston-Tillotson University.
In addition to the course load, a college freshman faces many challenges. The first few days on campus I was nervous because I did not know anybody. Unlike others, I decided not to participate in orientation week. On the second-to-last day of orientation, my AVID instructor put me on the spot and asked, “Have you participated in anything?” I simply responded, “No!” She then said that if she did not see me in the next workshop it was going to be “bad business.” After that, I attended the workshops. While there, I met classmates and new friends, and I slowly began to come out of my shell.
Through activities like scheduling, time management, and networking, AVID has helped transform me into a more-focused student. I personally applaud AVID because if it were not for AVID, I may not have done as well my freshman year. In AVID, we met once a week and honed study techniques and supported each other through group sessions with our peer student leader and one-on-ones with our instructor.
Finally, not only did AVID help me in the classroom, but the tools I learned also helped me outside the classroom. My instructor was the best! She always kept it real. Her words motivated me. Something she said that I’ll never forget was, “Excuses are the tools of the weak and incompetent, used to build monuments of nothingness. Those who excel in it seldom excel in anything else but excuses.”
This quote means so much to me because it motivates me to give everything I do 100%, and to never think about giving up or slacking off.
Now I’m what Huston-Tillotson University calls a “rising sophomore,” I am involved on campus. I was appointed Regional Director of the National Pre-Alumni Council for UNCF, active in Student Government, and obtained a 3.02 GPA.
The ideal path to my higher education would have included AVID as a high school and middle school student. I would have been at the top of my class with a better idea of how much work it takes to achieve my dreams. But I am grateful for the opportunity to experience AVID now in my postsecondary career because without it, I would not be excelling the way I am today.
It is my hope that more institutes of higher education will see the benefit of AVID, and that more high school students have the opportunity to participate in AVID because it is the solution to preparing students to be successful in high school and life beyond.