Young, Gifted & Black Series
By Taki S. Raton
They represent three different cities, Cleveland, St. Louis and Atlanta. All three are recent high school graduates, have been homeless and now each are heading to three different prestigious colleges.
They are Young, Gifted & Black. Cleveland’s David Boone will attend Harvard University this Fall on a full scholarship from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Eboni Boykin from St. Louis will be attending Columbia University, also on a full scholarship, and Fred Dukes out of Atlanta will be attending Coker College in South Carolina.
At age 14, according to Brad Aronson’s June 4, 2012 blog, David’s home was destroyed by gang members who retaliated because he would not join:
“My family and I lost our home to gang violence. I refused to join the gang, so they retaliated, leaving bullet holes in our house. As a result, my family had to split up because no one had room to take us all in together,” he says.
For nearly 2 years until his mother found a secure place for the family, David lived with friends, relatives, and school employees. Sometimes he had to sleep in Artha Woods Park off Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.
As published in the “BOSSIP” blog, “There wasn’t much the then 15 year-old could do about the hookers or drug dealers around him when he slept in the park. And the spectator’s bench at the baseball diamond wasn’t much of a bed.”
Stuffed with textbooks for height and papers on top for padding, his book bag became his pillow. BOSSIP reports that in the mornings, David would go to his friend Eric’s house after his parents left early for work so that he could shower and dress before attending classes at Cleveland’s specialized MC- 2STEM High School.
On other evenings writes Aronson, David would study in the transit station at night that had heat and was open late. David would leave the station at 5 a.m.:
“He worked hard. David was getting up at 5 a.m. and coming in early to get caught up on his work,” said his high school principal, Jeff McClellan. McClellan later learned that the student’s early arrival was due to his homeless circumstance. The principal and his wife took David in and lived with them for over a year.
Even while a student a Sunbeam Elementary School, David showed determination against all odds. The BOSSIP blog reports that during this time, he had medical problems that required regular visits to the hospital. According to the school’s former nurse, Mary Solomon-Gatson, he “impressed her as a bright child” and was one of the school’s “few students to pass the state’s achievement test despite missing classes constantly.”
The now 18-year-old has a habit of tinkering at the age of 6, he took apart the family television set and put it back together in complete working order. He additionally devised a class project on solar electricity while in the eighth grade.
David, once secured with a place to live during high school has worked at Lockheed Martin; Rockwell Automation plant, and studied with the Minority Introduction to Engineering and Science Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He also took classes at Cleveland State University this past Spring in differential equations, calculus-based physics and computer science.
The salutatorian of his graduating class, David, as cited in the June 22 Huff Post, was also accepted into over 20 universities throughout the nation including Yale, Princeton, Brown, University of Pennsylvania, and Cornell. At Harvard, he intends to major in electrical engineering and computer science.
Eboni Boykin spent much of her childhood in and out of homeless shelters. As noted in the May 12, 2012 issue of the St. Louis Post Dispatch, she attended more schools than she can recall. City urban schools were full of disruptions, failure, and high dropout rates.
She ascends from an impoverished life that many Black youth never overcome. Says Dispatch writer Elisa Crouch, Eboni on her way to Normandy High School in St. Louis every day walked through blighted neighborhoods with “streets filled with abandoned homes, litter-strewn lots and shuttered businesses.”
According to Crouch, her secmother, Lekista Flurry, was 17 when she gave birth to Eboni.
No one from Eboni’s immediate family has graduated from high school. But when she was a baby, Flurry would read to her even through their moves from house to house.
This regiment, however, momentarily stopped when they were in homeless shelters.
“There were times when we lived in cars. I would collect food stamps, but I didn’t have anywhere to put the food,” said Flurry.
Eboni began participating in the St. Louis Dream Center. Founded by televangelist Joyce Meyer, her Margaretta Avenue church housed the youth center. The family was fed by the church food pantry until Flurry found work. Eboni quickly became a leader and would teach Bible lessons to upwards of 40 children at a time.
“It was incredible to see how resilient she was,” said youth pastor Tony Gilmore in the Dispatch writing. “She took whatever she had and gave it to the other kids. Your circumstance does not define your destiny. Eboni was one of those kids who really understood that,” he adds.
Finally in a position to stabilize her family, Flurry found a job ironing shirts and making sprinklers in an area factory.
As cited in published reports, Eboni, her mother, and a younger brother and sister now live in a small tan brick house in Pagedale, Missouri, a city in St. Louis County. Prior to her graduation, the now 17-year-old was enrolled in three Advanced Placement classes while carrying a 3.8 G.P.A. She scored 27 on her ACT exam. At Normandy High last year, the average composite score, writes Couch, was 16. During the summer of 2011, Eboni attended a journalism program at Princeton University. It was during this summer that she selected Columbia where she plans to major in journalism.
The Dispatch account reveals that at 4 p.m. on December 8 while she was editing the school newspaper after school, she decided to check the university’s website for a posting of early admission acceptance letters. She pulled up the letter addressed to her. It began with “Congratulations”. In addition to her acceptance notification, she received another letter telling her that all expenses were paid. She is scheduled to spend five weeks this July at Columbia University in the City of New York for orientation.
“Getting into Columbia definitely teaches me that just keeping the faith and not giving up pays off,” as quoted in a June 27 “NewsOne For Black America” article. Eboni adds that “It just teaches me if you hang in there, you can have anything you want if you are willing to work hard for it.”
Fred Dukes this past May 23, walked across the stage at the capacity filled Atlanta Civic Center to receive his high school diploma from Booker T. Washington High School in Atlanta, Georgia.
What makes this young man’s achievement so special writes Terrell Jermaine Starr on May 29, 2012 in NewsOne is that “he did it while being homeless and without any family support.” He will attend Coker College this fall. He has his sights on a major in business.
Having been homeless since December, Fred was still able to score 24 on his ACT and maintain a 3.0 G.P.A. His mother, writes Starr, moved to South Carolina for a job, but the high school senior opted to remain in Atlanta.
He stayed with any friends who had extra space. A close friend of his, Malcolm allowed him to stay at his place if needed.
At the homeless shelter in downtown Atlanta, life was pretty tough. “I got into an altercation with a couple of other people that were staying there and they wanted to take my stuff, my belongings,” says Fred in NewsOne.
Fred sold candy in the hallways of Booker T. Washington to make a little side change- until he was caught. It is reported that one night, he went to meet a friend for a job. The meeting went longer than expected and as a result, he missed the last train at the station. According to the Starr account:
“With no money for a cab and no one to call, he said he did what he had to do. He walked to Oakland City in southwest Atlanta. That’s a 10-mile walk that started at midnight and ended at 3:30 a.m. But he made it to class on time.”
His science teacher Leyanna Lloyd says that, “He would just tell me stuff and I would sit there with a straight face and then I would end up crying after he left because he has been through a lot, but he never said he was giving up, ever,”
Fred as revealed in News- One notes that it was friendships that helped him to make it through. “Me and Fred had similar things going on at home that was bad and good, so we could help each other out because we can understand each other’s issues,” said Malcolm.
“I am very proud I stuck with it and didn’t give up,” says Fred in a May 24 CBSAtlanta.com feature. This homeless to college young man adds that his message is “do not let your situation make you who you are. It is the decisions that you make that make you the person that you are.”