I was born in Pike County, Alabama and given up for adoption prior to my first birthday. I was raised in poverty on the South Side of Chicago, where I attended segregated public schools.
I began school as a slow learner with a speech impediment. My mother recounts a parent-teacher conference with my second grade teacher who presented my mother with a report card in which I had failed every subject and received a ‘U’ for unsatisfactory behavior. She went on to tell my mother that she thought I was so stupid that I would unlikely make it beyond elementary school.
At the end of the fifth grade, my mother scraped up enough money to enroll me into Corpus Christi Middle School with hopes that I would receive a better education. After graduating from middle school, I went on to attend De La Salle High School, one of the best high schools in the country. However, after fighting my way through my community as a result of being bullied for wearing my Catholic school uniform, I eventually fought my way right out of De La Salle and was expelled nearing the end of the first semester of my sophomore year.
My mother enrolled me into my zoned public high school, DuSable, one of the lowest performing high schools in the country, where out of a ninth grade class of 500 students, only 50 graduated and only 15 went on to attend four year colleges and universities.
Lacking any college planning guidance, I applied to one college—Northeastern University because I thought their cooperative education program would allow me to work my way through college. I received a conditional acceptance requiring that I pass classes in physics and calculus. I enrolled at community college, earned an A in physics and a B in calculus.