Young, Gifted & Black Series
By Taki S. Raton
He has been accepted into four state universities – the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee, the University of Wisconsin – Platteville, the University of Wisconsin – Lacrosse, and the University of Wisconsin – Parkside.
This senior is looking forward to his graduation next month on June 9 from Riverside University High School. He is Young, Gifted & Black and his name is Keenan Diggens. With a cumulative GPA of 3.60, Keenan was among the 240 area students who received an Academic Excellence Award in “Recognition of Outstanding Academic Achievement” from the Milwaukee Urban League.
The ceremony was held at the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee’s Student Union on Monday, April 14, 2012. This Urban League’s National Achievers Society (NAS) Induction Ceremony is designed to inspire and promote a positive message about the benefits of academic achievement.
NAS recognizes students who are enrolled in grades 6 through 12 and have excelled academically as noted by an earned GPA of 3.0 or higher according to Shirley Sharp, Milwaukee Urban League’s Director of Education and Training.
Milwaukee Urban League’s President and CEO Ralph Hollmon said of this occasion: “We have the opportunity to recognize some of our best and most gifted students. Young people who understand the value and importance of education.” Hollmon adds that, “We want young people to embrace education, get good grades and continue onward into college or some form of post-secondary training because in a global technological society, education is the key that unlocks the doors of opportunity.”
When interviewed recently at Springfield College Milwaukee Campus where his mother, Phyllis Diggins attends classes and is also looking forward to graduation at the close of this current semester with an undergrad degree in Human Service, the 17 year-old reveals that he plans to become a cardiologist.
“I was always interested in becoming a doctor,” says Keenan. “This goal was further reinforced when a health conference was held at Riverside during my sophomore year.”
One of the exhibits at this conference, says Keenan, displayed a real human heart and included a video demonstration of a heart operation. “It was at that moment that I realized that becoming a tor was my goal in life,” he recalls.
Considering his selection of four area universities, Keenan at this juncture is looking closely at the pre-med curriculum at UW-Milwaukee.
In September of 2011, Keenan entered a scholarship essay contest jointly sponsored by Career Youth Development (CYD) in partnership with Huby & Abraham Law Offices. Over 100 students entered and only five were chosen for the final review process. Keenan’s essay “Education is a Must” was awarded first place recognition.
And it was also in this writing that he shared his dream of one day becoming a cardiovascular surgeon. He positions in his essay that education is important to him because “I refuse to live under the negative influences and the stereotypical assaults that this society imposes on men of color, African American males in particular.”
Demonstrating an impressive understanding of urban social dynamics, he includes in his essay a litany of trend outcomes impacting our central cities that he definitely intends to avoid. He records that according to a July 2003 Justice Department report, the U.S. prison population had surpassed 2 million for the first time and that in his findings, “10.4% of the African American male population in the United States ages 25 to 29 were incarcerated, by far the largest racial or ethnic group in the country.”
An earlier 2002 Justice Policy Institute released cites, as noted in his winning account, that “the number of Black men in prison has grown to five times the rate it was twenty-years ago. Today, more African American men are in jail than in college, with 791,600 Black men in prison and 603,032 enrolled in college.”
“I want to make sure that I follow my dreams and remain included within that 603,032 plus number that will be enrolled on a college campus and not fall prey to being counted among the statistical numbers held by our nation’s criminal judicial system,” he asserts.
His upbringing has indeed placed him on the true path towards success and being of service to others. Keenan has participated in a variety of community service programs through the College Possible initiative in Milwaukee. He has worked on teams to clean up park areas and made blankets for the victims of the Haiti crises. College Possible assists students in preparing for and assessing higher education corridors and encourages the next generation of leaders to become active community members.
In an initiative sponsored by Bethesda Baptist Church, Keenan volunteered to feed the homeless during Thanksgiving and worked for one hour after school in the spring of 2011 with Global Youth Service Day making covers for the victims affected by the tsunami in China and Japan.
A sprouting outdoorsman, he likes activities associated with camping. “I’ve had the opportunity to go to camp almost every year and really have taken to canoeing, fishing, swimming, archery, biking, and hikes. I also discovered during these experiences that I like to cook,” he reveals. His advice to other up and coming African American young men:
“Don’t be afraid to dream and dream big and always be strong and confident enough in yourself to keep your vision for yourself in front of you. The traps are out there for you to become a statistic. But keep your head up and stay focused straight ahead always knowing that your goal in life for yourself is higher and stronger than those negative elements working to keep you down.”