My name is Orlando Hopson, an 18-year-old graduate of John Adams High School. Graduation day was just last week and I have no choice but to reflect on the last four years. Those years were full of fun and accomplishment.
Freshman year started off strong; I was doing great. But then I began to slip into peer pressure, socializing with friends and a desire to be popular. Then Principal Damon Holmes stepped in; he introduced a program called Baldwin Wallace Scholars. It was an opportunity that only came around every four years for male, freshman, at-risk John Adams students. The BW Scholars program kept students on track for graduation, and prepared them, us, with the skills and tools needed to be successful in college and life. I signed up.
The BW Scholars program benefitted me in many ways. All of a sudden, I was interested in travel, I was eager to learn as much as I could and I became determined. My participation allowed me to obtain college credit by attending summer classes and even living on the BW campus. The program took me to places like Chicago and NYC, for the simple purpose of exposure via travel.
But most importantly, the BW Scholars program enabled me to graduate high school. This is a major accomplishment. From the high school I attended to the neighborhood I live in, too many don’t finish high school, especially African-American males. I beat the odds even with them stacked high against me.
I never gave up; I kept pushing. And I owe part of this to Ms. Ladonna Norris, the BW Scholars program director. I must say she’s one of the best people I’ve ever met. Ms. Norris pushed me, and the other 30 scholars in my class, to greater heights and she doesn’t give up on us as others may have. There were times when we scholars didn’t stay on her good side, we disappointed her, sometimes we upset her, but she believes in second chances.
Now that I’ve reached my goal of high school graduation, I’m looking forward to what’s next. This summer, I’ll finish coursework at BW. In the fall, I’m going to Cuyahoga Community College for a semester and then transferring to Baldwin Wallace University. I am getting a bachelor’s degree in international business with a minor in political science. I chose international business because BW Scholars instilled in me a passion for traveling and other cultures and political science because I have a personal interest in politics and I can use this degree to create societal change.
The BW Scholars program enlightened me on issues African-American males face academically, particularly the lack of role models. And since there isn’t a BW Scholars program for the young generation, I decided something should be done. I started my own campaign, which I plan to turn into an international business. M.A.G.I.C, an acronym which means Making A Generation Improve & Change, has allowed me to go into grade schools, middle schools and high schools to speak and inspire students to pursue education, entrepreneurship, success and more – things I learned from the BW Scholars program.
Guest blogger Orlando Hopson is a student in the BW Scholars program and a 2015 graduate of John Adams High School. The BW Scholars program is one of many United Way of Greater Cleveland invests in to support Orlando and other students in our community on their path to high school graduation.