I was a Bearcat before I really knew what a Bearcat was. Growing up in an inner-city Columbus neighborhood littered with drugs, gangs and violence, my siblings and I were raised by a single mother who provided for us the best she could, but often we didn’t have food or electricity. From first grade through high school, I changed schools 10 times. Taking the easy way out was always an option, but somehow I found the determination needed to overcome the odds, work hard, and become successful in life. That’s what a Bearcat would do.
That meant going to college. I was accepted to Ohio State, Xavier and Cincinnati, but only UC offered me a chance to run track, which I had begun as a high school senior. That track scholarship was my path to a college education. I would become a true Bearcat.
Yet when I arrived on campus, poor study habits and lack of attention to academics put me in a deep hole. I lost my scholarship and was one quarter from being kicked out of school. Again, giving up would have been easy, but Bearcats don’t do that. At my personal turning point, I recommitted myself to school and made the dean’s list within two quarters, re-earning my scholarship in the process. There have been similar instances of “being a Bearcat” on the track — defeating adversity, not letting myself or my teammates down, and expanding my limits. It worked! In 2009, I became UC’s first NCAA All-American in track in five years.
At the request of the Athletics Department, I occasionally tell “my personal Bearcat story” to incoming student-athletes, which helps me see my UC opportunity in a different way. I now understand the full value and meaning of a scholarship — how it can transform a life, and how students will sometimes do things they didn’t think possible because someone believes in them. It’s an agreement, and I learned the importance of holding up my end of the bargain — proving that my education was a good investment.
The university’s enrollment keeps growing, and everyone here has a great story. Inspiration is all around us. It’s part of UC’s wonderful diversity, for which I’m so thankful. I’ve made great friendships here, met my wife, and realized how to meet life’s challenges.
I’ll be a UC alumnus very soon, and I intend to keep spreading the good word about my university. After all, that’s what a Bearcat would do.