CHICAGO (CBS) — Julius Claybron was always empowered with the vision of what he wanted in his future. He spent his life growing up in Chicago public housing.

Now, as CBS 2’s Suzanne Le Mignot reports, he’s heading to prestigious Cornell University.

“I’ve called this home for about three years now,” Julius Claybron said as he walked down the sidewalk in front of Legends South, a mixed-income community. “But at first it was the Ickes — the Harold Ickes projects.”

The Ickes homes were torn down a few years ago.

“Overall, I wouldn’t trade the experience of living in the Ickes because it made me the person who I am today,” Claybron said.

The person Claybron is today is a young man who is heading to Cornell University, an Ivy League school in New York.

The 18-year-old, who grew up in Chicago public housing, graduated from Urban Prep Academy in Englewood. Claybron said he never let his circumstances dictate his future.

His grandmother, Idella Ross – who recently passed away – always reinforced that belief.

“My grandmother would always take me to the kitchen window and have me stare out the window at the crack heads and the drug dealers,” Claybron said.

“She would always tell me like, this is the future you can have if you choose, if you choose it. So every time I looked out that window, I just knew that wasn’t the future I wasn’t choosing,” he said.

Claybron is among 90 students who were honored Wednesday at the “Take Flight” Chicago Housing Authority college send-off. He credits the CHA Youth Opportunities Program with helping him learn about all the opportunities for high school seniors.

Claybron said he plans to study psychology and English at Cornell, then pursue a law degree.

“I do want to do a lot of pro bono cases. The way our legal system is set up, it’s not really set up to benefit the poor or the economically disadvantaged,” Claybron said.

When asked if this was his way of giving back, like his grandmother gave to him, Claybron replied, “Yes. I know she would want me to do this.”

Claybron and the other 89 students honored on Wednesday are not only receiving $250 CHA vouchers to cover book expenses, they also received dorm necessities like towels, bedding and shower caddies. The items were donated by Kohl’s, the CHA and the non-profit group “Windows of Opportunity.”

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