I Refuse To Be a Statistic

This month’s Scholar of the Month has submitted an essay he wrote with hopes of gaining admittance to Howard University in Washington D.C. Daniel Shannon is currently a senior at Washburn High School in South Minneapolis. This semester, all of his time in the classroom is being spent at Normandale Community College in Bloomington as a full time Post-Secondary student. Daniel is also currently serving his high school and his community as Student Body President and as Co-President of Minneapolis City-Wide Student Government. Outside of the academic world, Daniel serves his people in South Minneapolis as a Junior Leader for Young Life Twin Cities Urban Youth Ministries. Daniel Shannon is Minneapolis’ Scholar of the Month…

"They say the goodness in life belongs to those who believe, so I believe."
--Mos Def

I have grown up most of my life in Minnesota, an environment primarily influenced by European culture. From everything included in the "pop culture" of my generation, to the lessons taught in my history classes, it’s not often that I am ever able to identify true reflections of my cultural roots. My family and spirituality have been most influential in my decisions to exceed the expectations of society. Society has attempted to mold my entire existence into the bleak statistic of a black man in America, but I refuse to be a statistic.

One major resource of support in my life is my family. I’ve lived with my mother and my older brother my whole life. I have never had a relationship with my father. My family moved from Denver, Colorado in 1989 and since then I have only seen my father three times. Although my family is small, I have learned that it is not quantity, but quality that makes things great. For most of my childhood, my mother worked full time and went to school at night, leaving my older brother and me with the responsibility to attain a sense of maturity that was far ahead of our time. Although she was not always able to physically be present, my Mom supported us in a way that made this circumstance appear to be an opportunity for growth, rather than a burden of poverty. My family’s circumstance is still not especially desirable, however I feel privileged to have experienced the growing pains that I have had because the hard times have shaped my family into a strong unit conscious of what is necessary to be successful in life.

Along the way, I have learned that a definite necessity for success is to have a sense of spirituality. While growing into a young adult, several trials and tribulations challenged my will to be successful. In the times of struggle, it has been my personal relationship with God that has provided both wisdom to know how to respond to what was happening, and patience to endure it all. My most inner convictions to attain success are the result of God’s influence on my life.

At this point in time, it has become evident that society expects very little from me. Statistically, black males raised in a single parent home in the inner city are more likely to end up in jail than in a prestigious institution of higher learning. However true the statistics may be, there is always an exception to the rule. I am disgusted and insulted by the destiny that has attempted to claim me as a result of common statistics. My destiny is determined by my willingness to reach my potential. My potential is a blessing from God, not a curse from society’s statistics. I have worked hard in the classroom and in the community to honor the gifts that God has given me, and to acknowledge the resources I’ve been blessed with that support me along the way.

One of the most influential factors in my decision to apply to Howard University was its prestigious reputation. While Howard University is producing the men and women who are dominant influences in our society, it is the personal legacy of each individual that makes Howard great. While I can humbly conclude that I have accomplished a considerable amount even at the young age of 18, enthusiastically, I look towards the future knowing I still have a great deal of room for growth and development. I am confident that Howard University will provide the best atmosphere for personal development as well as the rigorous education that I need to create my own legacy to be accredited to all that I will take from my experiences at Howard University. In the mean time, my unique experiences and background allow me to contribute not only to the current legacy of student leaders and achievers, but also balance it all out by being spiritually and morally grounded.

I was once told that anything worth having does not come easily. Clearly, there are factors in my life that discourage progress, but I have come to learn that my character is defined only by the factors that I allow to be influential. By attending Howard University, I hope to contribute to the changing the expectations of black men in America. I am so thankful for the influence that God and my family have had on my decisions to exceed society’s low expectations of me. I will continue to strive for the success that God has promised me, but until I reach it, I refuse to be a statistic.

{liberatormagazine.com exclusive feature}
by Daniel Shannon
{The Liberator Magazine 2.1 #3, 2003}

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