Our last child, Matthew, completed his final semester at California Polytechnic State University last month. His is the fifth of our children, including my nephew Rason, who earned his bachelor’s degree.
After he informed my wife and I that he completed his studies, he commented that “you and mom should be hailed as community heroes” because we had five black males to graduate from college from the same household in Austin.
He was surprised by my answer. I explained to him that graduating five black men from college is not unusual.
“Why should it be unusual? Is it unusual in Oak Park?” I asked him.
In our household, we expected all of our children to be successful in whatever endeavor they took on. We made the necessary time and financial sacrifices to put our sons and nephew in the position to reach their fullest potential. We established the culture of high expectation.
We imparted to our children that academic success equated to economic prosperity. Most importantly, we explained to our children that academic achievement had nothing to do with someone being genetically smarter, it’s about hard work and exposure.
Although our children were blessed with a stable household, that wasn’t the case fo all our relatives.
My nephew Trayvon Truss (whom I did not raise) was a 2015 Gates Millennium Scholarship winner. He graduated from Corliss High School and is now a B student at his dream school, Morehouse College in Atlanta.
He did not let homelessness or being labeled a special needs student stop him. Poverty didn’t prevent him from getting where he is now.
He gave himself a goal and dream. He surrounded himself with positive people. His teachers at Corliss High School became his support system. He channeled all the negativity in his life into positive energy that fueled his hard work.
If he did not understand a subject, he read and studied that subject over and over until he understood it.
My wife and I are very proud that we established a culture to motivate our children to pursue their post-secondary academic aspirations. We also acknowledge the hard work Chicago Public Schools teachers put into partnering with us to mold our children.
We are not the Huxtable family from “The Cosby Show,” although the show does reflect real successful black families. We had and have challenges just like other families. We are not perfect.
Our family accomplishments exist because we would not let our children succumb to bigotry of low expectations. We are proud of what our children and nephews accomplished.
It was all about hard work and the culture of expectation, not magic.
Austin resident Dwayne Truss is on the board of directors of Raise Your Hand and a member of Chicago Citizens United to Preserve Public Education.