The Sky's the Limit
Jamal had been in jail three times. But with the support of Communities In Schools, he is now in college and fulfilling his dreams.
Nineteen-year-old Jamal Tate is the big man on campus at Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, N.C. Now in his second year of college, the organizational and relational communications major just finished his freshman year with a 3.75 GPA, is already the president of a local Communities In Schools Alumni Network chapter, and is quick to make friends with his big smile and positive attitude.
A year ago, Jamal didn’t even know that college was an option. The young man had been sent to jail three times since he was 17 and didn’t see anything in his future but more of the same.
“I was on a really dark path,” said Jamal. “I had a lot of energy and didn’t know how to focus it in a positive way.”
Today, Jamal credits Communities In Schools of Charlotte-Mecklenburg for believing in him when no one else would and giving him the resources he needed to forge a new, brighter path.
Communities In Schools of Charlotte-Mecklenburg, in a partnership with the County Sheriff’s Department and local schools, provides counseling and resources to juvenile offenders with the goal of helping them transition successfully back into school. Reggie Hester, a site coordinator who works within Jail North, made sure that Jamal had regular access to a psychologist and drug counselor while in jail. He also worked with Joe Rothenberg and Lisa Meadows, site coordinators at Jamal’s school, to make sure that the young man stayed on top of his schoolwork.
“A guidance counselor, [Lori Di’pierno], and I would collect Jamal’s work from teachers, put it in a box, drive it over to the jail, and turn it over to Reggie, who in turn gave it to Jamal,” Rothenberg said.
When Jamal left jail for the last time, he knew without a doubt it was a place he never wanted to return to. But he didn’t know where to go next. He toyed with the idea of military service after graduation, but Rothenberg knew that college was his true calling. The site coordinator registered Jamal for Summer Bridge, a Communities In Schools-sponsored program designed to help high school seniors acclimate to college life through summer courses. In addition, he helped Jamal apply for financial aid. Despite having a 1.8 GPA in high school, Jamal’s intelligence shined through in his standardized test scores, and he earned a Pell Grant, a federal grant designed for low-income undergraduate students who demonstrate an ability to succeed in college.
Communities In Schools didn’t scrutinize me for repeatedly getting into trouble,” Jamal said. “They saw what was in me that I didn’t see myself.”
Today, Jamal is channeling his extra energy into lifting spirits by telling his inspirational story. He travels to high schools to talk about his experiences in jail and encourage young people to make the right choices. And he’s not just a member of the Communities In Schools Alumni Network, he’s also the president of the first college-based Communities In Schools alumni group in the country. In the future, he hopes to be an established public speaker.
“Sometimes you have to peel back the rock, and what you have is a statue,” Rothenberg said. “Jamal is simply…there are no words. I don’t know how far this guy is going to go, but the sky is the limit.”
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