A Hope in the Unseen

A Hope in the Unseen by Ron Suskind

This book is the inspiring  story of Cedric Jennings’s journey from an inner city Washington D.C. school through his first year at Ivy League Brown College. It begins in 1994 when Cedric is a junior at Ballou Senior High.  He is hiding out in his chemistry classroom, avoiding the awards assembly in the gym where he would surely be harassed as a nerd upon getting his prize.  His long-time mentor, Mr. Taylor is gently but firmly encouraging him about his future, as he has done since the student was a ninth grader.  “You see, Cedric, you’re in a race, a long race…You can’t worry about what people say from the sidelines.  They’re already out of it.  You, however, are still on the track.  You just have to keep on running…”  Behind him for support, Cedric also has has his single mother and his Pentecostal church, both of whom have complete faith that the lanky young man will make it.  One of Cedric’s early successes is making it into a summer science program at MIT.  Even though it’s a program for underrepresented students, Cedric finds himself completely unprepared academically, even though he is the top students at Ballou.  Even after he’s told at the final evaluation that he’s just “not MIT material,” Cedric may be disheartened, but does not give up.  No one ever told him that this would be easy.  His acceptance to Brown is a major triumph, both for him and his family, but there again he finds himself unprepared, both academically and emotionally.  His journey made me realize that it’s only the beginning when our students get into college; the hardest part comes next.

What I especially appreciated is how the writer and Cedric explored the student’s thoughts and feelings as he struggled — first escape from a violent inner city environment where education was not prized by the other students at the school, then to the hyper-competitive private college milieu where he started off behind academically (despite getting straight A’s in high school) and felt isolated and lost.  This is one of the best memoirs I’ve ever read, and I recommend to ALL BHS students.

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