In two short weeks, COH mentee, JT, will embark on a new adventure: he’s starting college!
A recent Anacostia High School graduate, JT has already thought about how he’s going to balance his coursework with his extracurricular activities at Johnson and Wales University in Charlotte, NC. He has to choose between basketball or soccer.
While JT is excited for college, getting here wasn’t easy. Five years ago, as JT was preparing for his freshmen year of high school, he and his mother unexpectedly lost their home and landed at DC General, the city’s largest family homeless shelter. They eventually got connected to Community of Hope.
Stepping out from difficult circumstances, JT never let homelessness get in the way of reaching his goals. Instead, he let his experiences fuel his future.
“Losing our home changed my mindset and made me strive to work harder, so that we won’t be in the same predicament again.”
Working hard and being goal-oriented paid off! In June, JT’s mom watched him walk across the stage for his diploma – the first to graduate in his family – and now, he’s heading to school with not one, but three scholarships in tow.
He’s particularly proud of his Achiever’s Scholarship and can’t wait to start classes in his fashion and merchandise retailing major this fall. “I always knew I was going to college. Now, I’m happy to be going with less money out of [my family’s] pockets.”
Community of Hope is proud to be a part of his growth along the way! Since 2012, JT has had Carlton, a Community of Hope volunteer mentor, as a positive force and role model by his side.
When Carlton first got matched with JT, he planned on working with him until he graduated, saying “if I can be the instrument to help JT better himself, that’s what I’m here for; to help him reach his full potential.”
And he has done just that. Together, the pair has navigated the challenges of each grade and performed community service. They’ve been on both educational and what they call “goof-off” trips to grow this potential.
“He’s shown me things I’ve never done before and probably wouldn’t have seen,” JT explains. These things include an interactive Shakespeare play and trips to the Baltimore Aquarium, the National Great Blacks in Wax Museum, and the Air and Space Museum. They’ve also had fun goofing-off at Hershey Park and King’s Dominion with JT’s mom.
Carlton, who is a firm believer in giving back to the community, is especially proud of how he helped instill an attitude of gratitude in JT. They’ve volunteered together at Carlton’s church where they’ve made and served lunches. Because of this, JT plans to continue serving the community while he is away at school.
“JT has persevered. He’s come through obstacles other high school kids do not go through,” Carlton shares. “I’m very proud of him.” The two plan to stay in contact well beyond their mentor-mentee relationship. “JT knows he can pick up the phone and call me anytime.”
Despite the challenges he faced as a teen, JT never let homelessness get him off track. With a stable place to call home and a strong role model along the way, he became even more focused and headstrong about his goals.
What comes next for him? “Packing!”
Look at the difference three years can make! Pictured on the left is JT and Carlton shortly after they got matched. On the right, JT and Carlton in 2016, two weeks before his college send off.