What They Carry with Them

You wouldn’t be wrong in describing High Jump as an academic program, but time and time again, our students tell us that it’s more than that. 

While not the program’s primary goal, community, and long-lasting friendships are just a couple of the added benefits that alumni proclaim. Extended support and networking opportunities with others who have a shared experience are priceless, and they’re part of what students carry with them as they move forward.

We invited three alumni who have maintained their friendships from High Jump to share their thoughts. Here is a snapshot of their stories.

Middle School: Douglas Taylor
High School: Whitney M. Young High School
College: Indiana University
Career: Biology Teacher
Audio clip from Erik Rojas on giving back to the next generation of students.

“I think with High Jump you get the experience, and once you experience it you want to give back you want to be a part of it– you want to help out the next generation of students.”


Eric, a member of High Jump’s Cohort 26, is a Sophomore at Indiana University majoring in Biology. 

“High Jump has played a really big role in my life because right now I am majoring in Biology, with a teaching certificate, because I plan to teach at a middle school or elementary school in the future. I really like teaching. I really like science. I love working with students– it’s really rewarding. It’s great to watch the students grow, and learn, and improve. High Jump helped me see that school can be a lot more fun and educational, and that you have a big impact on your students’ lives.”

Middle School: Whitney M. Young High School
High School: Whitney M. Young High School
College: University of Illinois at Chicago
Career: Software Engineer
Audio clip from Gary Mei on volunteering with High Jump.

“I like volunteering at High Jump. This past year I taught at High Jump, and it’s something that I like to do whenever I can.”


Today, Gary is a software engineer at Instructure– working with learning management systems like Canvas.

“After college I have always worked with education related stuff. I think every job I’ve ever had is education related outside of college.” When probed about the influence of High Jump on his career path, Gary said “it’s probably symbiotic at this point, but I think I’m drawn to it.”

Middle School: Jackson
High School: Whitney M. Young High School
College: University of Illinois at Chicago
Career: Teaching
Audio clip from Alex Liu on how High Jump impacted his career choice.

“It was actually High Jump that made me realize my love for teaching.”

Alex Liu, High jump cohort 18

Alex teaches at Robert Grimes Elementary, a Chicago Public School located in the Clearing community of Chicago near Midway airport. Both part of High Jump’s cohort 18, Alex and Gary have remained friends ever since and keep in touch with other alumni as well. 

“We know a couple more people, I don’t think they’re in the city now, but we definitely stay connected because of High Jump.”

Social-Emotional Learning is one of the main pillars of our program. And community, friendship, and support networks are all key to our continued support of alumni and helping them unlock the tools they have within them.

High Jump is just the beginning of a successful educational journey for many students. More than ever, we must continue to build equitable learning opportunities for Chicago’s middle school youth.

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