Cedric Jennings Shares Story of His Success with Mount Union Students

April 01, 2010

An author speaking at convocations is considered ordinary by college standards. But when the extraordinary subject of a literary work speaks at a college campus, something extraordinary is taking place.


Mount Union College took part in a rare event, welcoming Cedric Jennings, the main character of the best-seller "A Hope in the Unseen: An American Odyssey from the Inner City to the Ivy League" to speak to the freshmen class regarding his experiences as a self-professed "black kid from the ghetto" and how he was able to achieve great academic achievements despite the obstacles he faced.

Jennings stressed the importance of education as a means to make better lives. "Education is the vehicle for socio-economical liberation," Jennings said. "Nobody can take away your knowledge."

Weaving in Ivy League vocabulary with street slang, he encouraged freshmen to find what they are passionate about, and from there, choose a major. Jennings also mentioned the need for flexibility in aspirations. "What you have planned may not necessarily go as planned."

Jennings spoke of his experiences, ranging from growing up in a rough neighborhood of Washington, D.C. with little hope to attending two Ivy League institutions and his pursuit of a second master's degree.

He said that with or without the publicity from the book and Pulitzer Prize winning articles printed in the Wall Street Journal, he would still be in the same place he is now. He credits "crazy faith," love, support, and his quest to prove his naysayers wrong for his strength to overcome adversity.

He related to the audience with his stories about his first year at Brown University and the most important social lesson he has learned. He came to realize that it is possible to remain true to one's own beliefs, culture, and spirituality while still branching out to other people. He said that he was able to find his "voice."

Jennings suggested that Mount Union College continue to employ active and aggressive recruitment of American students of color and "a commitment to the proper adjustment of these students" to further attract them.

The story that Jennings told is not a far cry to the situation of some Mount Union students. One member of the freshman class could relate well to Jennings, although she is not a minority student. Rosa Detweiler, a 25-year-old freshman originally from Missouri, grew up with poor parents, heated water on the stove, and never completed high school. "I could identify with most of the issues he faced on a different level, for example, the culture shock and being disadvantaged."

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