This May, I had the great honor of graduating from Morehouse College, the school of my dreams. I will never forget the day I knew that I wanted to go to Morehouse. I had just finished my associate of arts degree at Ohio Dominican. After I had earned my associate’s, I knew that I wanted to pursue a bachelor’s degree. Before attending The Charles School, a public charter school in Ohio, I thought college was inconceivable, the only thing people would tell me growing up was, "make sure you get through high school." No one really talked about college. When I heard about The Charles School I wanted to go for one reason: They promised the chance to simultaneously earn a high school diploma and and associate's degree from partner university, Ohio Dominican—for free. Sure, I would have to attend high school for five years but it was worth it.
During my last year of high school, I applied to several schools including Pace, Baldwin Wallace and Ohio Dominican. I felt good about my college applications. I wrote personal essays, provided strong letters of recommendation and knew that I possessed the necessary skills to enroll into college. One day I went to catch up with one of my favorite faculty members at my high school, her name was Shannon Taylor. Mrs. Taylor and I had an interesting dynamic. She was always there to tell me what I needed to hear even when I didn’t want to. We had numerous interactions that I still reflect on to this day, but it was one Thursday afternoon that changed everything. The day Mrs. Taylor handed me a brochure from Morehouse. It was this moment that completely changed the trajectory of my life. When I learned about the illustrious alumni from Morehouse such as Maynard Jackson, Jeh Johnson and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I knew that this was the school for me. With much enthusiasm and excitement, I applied to this historic HBCU (Historically Black College and University).
The first time I applied to Morehouse my application got deferred. I was unaware of the college admissions process, so I thought that deferred meant denied. After expressing my frustrations to Chelsea Carson, another staff member at my school we came up with a strategy that would convince the Morehouse admissions team that I was worthy of becoming a Morehouse student. Mrs. Chelsea and I wrote letters expressing why I would be a good fit for Morehouse. We also tapped Mr. Bob Wilson who was my history teacher at the time, asking him to write a letter as well. Together, the three of us sent heartfelt letters to the Morehouse admissions department with hopeful hearts and crossed fingers that this time I would get in. Thankfully, on February 15th, 2013, I got the great news that I was accepted into Morehouse College and enrolled that fall.
My journey at Morehouse since my acceptance has been adventurous. I would not have had this amazing experience if it were not for the love and support from my high school teachers. I can say with confidence that it was the reassurance that I got from my high school teachers that gave me the confidence to take on this Morehouse journey. Educators are so important. My teachers were the ones who lifted me up when the path to Morehouse almost took me down. I believe that teaching is such an important profession. Teachers have an influence and impact on students that can change the trajectory of their student's lives. I know that when I got that deferred letter, had it not been for my high school teachers, I would have given up then. I’m confident that I would not have pursued Morehouse and wouldn’t be where I am today. To be an impactful teacher takes courage, passion and commitment. To all the teachers out there, keep lifting, keep inspiring and leading. You're changing lives more than you realize.
Chris Sumlin is a graduate of The Charles School, a public charter school in Columbus, Ohio and Morehouse College. He also holds an associate's degree from Ohio Dominican University. He is a blogger and published author with his debut book, "Dealing With This Thing Called Life."