From homeless to Harvard, Columbia, and Coker College students excel despite the odds

They are from three different cities, Cleveland, St. Louis and Atlanta. All are recent high school graduates, have been homeless and now each are heading to three different prestigious colleges.

They are Young, Gifted & Black. Cleveland’s David Boone will attend Harvard University this fall on a full scholarship from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Eboni Boykin from St. Louis will be attending Columbia University, also on a full scholarship, and Fred Dukes out of Atlanta will be attending Coker College in South Carolina.

At age 14, according to Brad Aronson’s June 4, 2012 blog, David’s home was destroyed by gang members who retaliated because he would not join:

“My family and I lost our home to gang violence. I refused to join the gang, so they retaliated, leaving bullet holes in our house. As a result, my family had to split up because no one had room to take us all in together,” he says.

For nearly 2 years until his mother found a secure place for the family, David lived with friends, relatives, and school employees. Sometimes he had to sleep in Artha Woods Park off Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.

As published in the “BOSSIP” blog, “There wasn’t much the then 15 year-old could do about the hookers or drug dealers around him when he slept in the park. And the spectator’s bench at the baseball diamond wasn’t much of a bed.”

Stuffed with textbooks for height and papers on top for padding, his book bag became his pillow. BOSSIP reports that in the mornings, David would go to his friend Eric’s house after his parents left early for work so that he could shower and dress before attending classes at Cleveland’s specialized MC- 2STEM High School.

On other evenings writes Aronson, David would study in the transit station at night that had heat and was open late. David would leave the station at 5 a.m.:

“He worked hard. David was getting up at 5 a.m. and coming in early to get caught up on his work,” said his high school principal, Jeff McClellan. McClellan later learned that the student’s early arrival was due to his homeless circumstance. The principal and his wife took David in and lived with them for over a year.

Even while a student a Sunbeam Elementary School, David showed determination against all odds. The BOSSIP blog reports that during this time, he had medical problems that required regular visits to the hospital. According to the school’s former nurse, Mary Solomon-Gatson, he “impressed her as a bright child” and was one of the school’s “few students to pass the state’s achievement test despite missing classes constantly.”

The now 18-year-old has a habit of tinkering.   At the age of 6, he took apart the family television set and put it back together in complete working order. He additionally devised a class project on solar electricity while in the eighth grade.

David, once secured with a place to live during high school, has worked at Lockheed Martin; Rockwell Automation plant, and studied with the Minority Introduction to Engineering and Science Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He also took classes at Cleveland State University this past spring in differential equations, calculus-based physics and computer science.

The salutation of his graduating class, David, as cited in the June 22 Huff Post, was also accepted into over 20 universities throughout the nation including Yale, Princeton, Brown, University of Pennsylvania, and Cornell. At Harvard, he intends to major in electrical engineering and computer science.

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By contributing writer Taki S. Raton for Young Men’s Perspective Magazine

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