Meet Charisma, Ernest, and Mariam
SCHOOLS, STUDENTS | June 13, 2020
Meet Charisma, Ernest, and Mariam

Three Crane Medical Prep Seniors Eager to Pursue STEM Careers

Mariam Pedro remembers sitting by herself and reading a book on her first day of high school at Crane Medical Prep. All of the other freshmen were getting to know each other, but she did not feel like she belonged. Fast-forward four years, and Mariam will be attending the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as a civil engineering major after pursuing every opportunity imaginable at Crane. Her list of extracurriculars includes mock trial, National Honor Society, French club, student council, basketball, soccer, and track. She gave a speech at Google headquarters and was featured as a student activist by the Chicago Tribune. She even learned Japanese and visited Japan. Her time at Crane has taught her to keep her mind open, even when her path seems to be leading her in an unexpected direction. 

“If I hadn’t gone to Crane, I don’t think I would have become as outspoken or open-minded as I am now,” said Mariam. “I have realized that you don’t have to go to what everyone else is calling the top school; you just have to use the opportunities that are right in front of you.” 

Though her desired career path has shifted from dentist to veterinarian to plastic surgeon as she’s grown up, Charisma Shirley’s interests have always been rooted in taking care of others. As a young child, her great-grandmother took care of her, and now she takes care of her great-grandmother. During her time at Crane, she got involved with Crane’s Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) team—the only one in CPS—and competed two years in a row. The competition pushed Charisma and her teammates to create effective awareness campaigns for important health issues such as tobacco use and quickly stopping serious bleeding. She was also given the opportunity to intern for a renowned plastic surgeon in Downtown Chicago. As she heads to Brandeis University as a health: science, society, and policy major, she knows her time at Crane was the perfect stepping stone toward her future aspirations. 

“Going to Crane has made me more pursuant of a medical career than if I had gone to any other school,” said Charisma. “I don’t think I would have the opportunities or awareness of our current healthcare system that I do now.” 

For Ernest Willingham, a North Lawndale native, a career in the medical field has always been top-of-mind because of his family’s history of chronic illnesses. He remembers the first time he learned how to use a ventilator and feeding tube to help take care of his aunt with cerebral palsy. With Crane’s curriculum, he was able to expand upon his knowledge of the medical field through courses that spanned from anatomy and physiology to dissection to learning about modern healthcare inventions. On top of his coursework, he appreciated talking with and getting feedback from medical professionals. He will be attending Northeastern University in Boston as a Torch Scholar—one of just 13 from around the world—to pursue a pre-med concentration. 

“If medicine is what you’re looking to study, Crane has done an incredible job at making sure that you not only have exposure, but also experience, in that field,” said Ernest. “You have challenging coursework, professionals to interview with, and so many opportunities that are just remarkable.” 

It’s a hopeful feeling to know that the future of healthcare rests in the hands of talented, determined students like Charisma, Ernest, and Mariam who are leaving high school with the confidence to take on any opportunity—no matter how big or challenging—that comes their way. Many flowers are blooming off of Crane Medical Prep’s STEM.