CHICAGO (CBS) — A year ago, Julius Claybron was making the move from the inner city to the Ivy League. Now, the former Chicago Housing Authority resident is back in Chicago, offering advice to other public housing residents about to head to college.
Claybron talked to CBS 2’s Derrick Blakley about making the transition from the streets of Chicago to the campus of Cornell University.
He told other CHA residents preparing to go to college to get ready to hit the ground running.
In his first year at Cornell, Claybron said his biggest surprise was, “I did not expect the workload to be so much.”
Claybron grew up in the CHA’s now-demolished Harold Ickes Homes in the Bronzeville neighborhood. Just before leaving for college, his tower of strength, his grandmother Idella Ross, passed away.
The transition to Cornell, in upstate New York, wasn’t easy.
“My first year at Cornell definitely was a lot of introspection, a lot of coping, a lot of me really trying to navigate academics and deal with my own personal bereavement,” he said.
More than 60 CHA students are heading off to college this fall.
Marivana Youngblood is bound for Howard University, fulfilling her mother’s dreams.
Her mother, Jo Anne Ross, said she can’t stop crying.
“I can’t, because my baby’s going to Howard, and I really didn’t have no money to send her to college,” she said. “But we worked hard on that Gates Millennium [Scholarship], and she won it.”
Youngblood said, “I pushed myself to get noticed, and once people started noticing that I wanted it, they helped me get it.”
But Claybron said one of the biggest hurdles for inner city students is conquering their own fears.
“We are so afraid of what’s outside of our neighborhood, what is outside of our bubbles, that we stunt our growth and we don’t live up to our potential,” he said.
Purdue University freshman Imani Jackson-Draper said, “That’s the problem there, they don’t know. So they’re afraid.”
Jackson-Draper said she intends to study biology at Purdue. She’s a West Side CHA resident.
As for Claybron, he finished his first year at Cornell with a grade point average just under 3.0, so about a B-minus average.
He said he expects his sophomore year to go a lot smoother.
His big message is for CHA students to dream bigger and reach higher, because those dreams are attainable, if you prepare.