The dismal education statistics for young Black men are all too familiar, especially in cities like Camden, New Jersey, where poverty, crime and poor access to quality schooling are de rigueur. And all too often, Black achievement is devastated by the harsh bias of low expectations.
But 18-year-old Aljelani Igwe of Camden defied expectations Friday, when he graduated from Leap Academy University Charter School. So proud was his mom, Ovella O’Neal, that the single mother of six purchased a billboard ad to celebrate the achievement, according to ABC News.
@GMA wow this is something. The mom will soon have 2 let son make decisions; he’s going 2 college. Mom did good. He’ll have 2 live his life
— Elaine Hegwood Bowen (@englewoodelaine) June 23, 2015
The Huffington Post writes that Aljelani was surprised by the billboard, which bears his photograph:
The single mom of six says her happiness is in part from the fact that Igwe has been able to succeed despite his surroundings. According to CQ Press’ 2013 Crime Rate Rankings, Camden has the highest crime rate in the United States. It also has a low graduation rate, with two in five high school seniors failing to graduate in 2014, according to South Jersey Times. O’Neal created strict rules in her household like prohibiting Igwe from having a girlfriend.
She also limited his cell phone use, in order to keep him from getting distracted, CBS Philly reported. Her guidelines seemed to have worked and she says her son stayed on the right track.
Aljelani was accepted into the chemical engineering program at Rowan University in Glassboro, New Jersey, and is thinking about joining Army ROTC in the fall, reports ABC 6.
Congratulations and good luck, Aljelani!