“High Jump was the first step to all the greatness that has occurred in my life.”

Alumni Spotlight: Derrick

Cohort 22 alumnus Derrick grew up in Hyde Park with a mother who always taught him to value education and to constantly search for ways to move forward. When they learned about High Jump, they knew it was an opportunity for Derrick to receive the academic rigor he wasn’t getting at school.

“High Jump was the first step to all the greatness that has occurred in my life.”

After two years of High Jump’s programming, Derrick received his acceptance letter from the Latin School of Chicago, his dream school, and it was the first time he ever cried tears of joy.

Derrick came back to High Jump as one of the teaching assistants for the program’s Writing Workshop class, the same subject that influenced him during his time at High Jump. He specifically remembers his writing teacher Ms. Warren being really engaging, and the class sparked his love for English. This passion would carry on throughout his academic career, eventually leading him to study abroad in college and master other languages; he is now fluent in German, French and Italian.

“Thanks to High Jump, I realized that I could accomplish big things despite my financial background.”

Derrick attends Skidmore College, where he majors in German and Foreign Affairs and minors in French. Last year, he won a Fulbright grant that will allow him to teach English to children in Germany and serve as an ambassador for American culture and values. “Ever since High Jump I have been moving up and towards my goals. High Jump was my first stepping stone to everything else, and gave me confidence that I can always seize opportunities that are made available to me,” Derrick says. And he excels at finding those opportunities. When the COVID-19 pandemic delayed his Fulbright program until fall 2021, Derrick kept moving forward by applying for – and getting accepted into – the Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship Program.

The prestigious Pickering Fellowship guarantees a five-year role as a Foreign Service Officer in Washington, D.C. and at a U.S. embassy, consulate, or diplomatic mission elsewhere in the world after completing two years of graduate school. He has already applied to Georgetown, Tufts, and American Universities with a goal of starting in 2022.

“It feels so good to be selected for something so competitive, and especially because I have wanted to make a career out of the foreign service for a long time. I’ve been helped quite a bit in my life. This career would give me the opportunity to help other people in a bigger way.”

To other students with high expectations for their future, Derrick offers this advice: “Dream big and don’t be afraid to reach as high as you can. There’s going to be a lot of hard work you can do on your own, but make sure to tell other people what you want to do, too. If you tell other people your plans, they can help you or put you in touch with connections you don’t know about. Be humble, stay focused, and always be grateful to the people and institutions that have helped you come that far.”

You can help more students like Derrick pursue their dreams with High Jump’s help!

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