Growing up on Chicago’s West Side, Maurice Walls decided early in his life that he will not be a negative statistic.
“I will be an individual who stands alone and can conquer the world,” he wrote in his winning essay for the Sidney Epstein Believe in Kids Award: a $5,000 college scholarship.
Maurice attended CYC-Epstein in North Lawndale from when he was 3 until he graduated from high school. He is now a freshman at Michigan State University, where he is studying pre-veterinary medicine.
As a first-generation college student, his academic journey began with CYC’s College and Career Readiness program. He started thinking and learning about college when he was still in middle school. Later on, he went on college trips with the Center and remained involved in the various clubs and mentoring programs available. Maurice graduated from high school with a 4.3 GPA.
“CYC’s CCR program played a role in me making the right decision because I had so long to think about college,” Maurice said. “I focused on doing well in high school so I could pick any school and have as many options as possible.”
For Maurice, coming to CYC felt like being with his second family.
“It kept me out of trouble,” he said. “It gave me something to do. It was a safe place for me to go after school. It was a safe place for my parents to know where I was, instead of getting sucked into the streets of Chicago doing the wrong things.”
Maurice’s little sister Marissa is still at CYC-Epstein, following her brother’s footsteps. Through the summer and fall, the 9-year-old worked on her project: "Speak Your Peace." She organized a Peace March and a Peace T-shirt design contest through CYC.
"It was about our community and making sure that people don't shoot people," Marissa said. "I learned that you can make a difference when you do one small thing."
Maurice and Marissa epitomize what can happen within a community with consistent support and mentors. We are so proud of their achievements!