Back-to-School Byte: From Compton to College

As part of Tell Me More's Education series, listener Halleemah Nash reflects on her educational journey from the streets of Compton to Howard University and how her college experience helped changed her life. Nash is now the Director of Youth Opportunities for the Chicago Housing Authority.

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MICHEL MARTIN, host:

We had the opportunity to speak to a number of exceptional educators as part of our series and we asked one of them, Halleemah Nash, to tell us her own story in her own words. She tells us about her journey to college and what she learned about herself along the way.

Ms. HALLEEMAH NASH (Director, Youth Opportunities, Chicago Housing Authority): Hi, my name is Halleemah Nash. I am the director of Youth Opportunities at Chicago Housing Authority in Chicago, Illinois. I went to Howard University for undergrad and Duke University for grad school, but I am originally from Compton, California.

In terms of my surroundings, I didnt know a lot of people that went to universities. I was actually the first to go to college out of everyone in my family. You know, I had tons of brothers and sisters and, you know, we all grew up in the same kind of environment, where youre told that you can probably be the best drug dealer that you could be or you could be maybe the best rapper that you could be or be the best athlete that you could be, but there weren't a lot people motivating me to really do more than that.

I had a high school counselor that really believed in me and told me if you really want to get out of this community, if you really want to change this community, then education has to be it.

My Howard University experience was very formative for me because before then I didnt have experiences traveling. I didnt know people that spoke different languages. I didnt know people that, you know, had read Shakespeare when they were in high school and wanted to be lawmakers and wanted to be doctors. Before I got there, I just wanted to get a degree and, you know, make a lot of money. But when I got there, I realized that I could do more than that.

Sure, you know, I can do a job where I made a proper compensation for the work that I was doing, but in addition to that, I can make a difference in someone else's life. I could reach back as I climbed, and help other individuals understand that it is not about your location, its about your destination.

I think the biggest piece of wisdom that I could share, is that I think that I heard a number of times that college is not for everybody. But I am here to say that in our community and with our economic climate and the kinds of things that we see for individuals that drop out of high school every day and that dont finish college every day, college is for everybody, because education is the key to success.

MARTIN: That was Halleemah Nash, the director of Youth Opportunities at Chicago Housing Authority, telling us in her own words the benefits of higher education.

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