STUDENTS | June 1, 2021
There’s a running joke at Sarah E. Goode STEM Academy that soon-to-be graduate Amoni Midderhoff is secretly the principal of the school. Students and staff first started calling him that after seeing him visit classrooms on behalf of the student body with Goode’s network chief.
These visits are just one of the many ways Amoni has established himself as a leader over the past four years. He’s balanced being president of the school’s Black Organization of Successful Students (BOSS), founding Goode’s student council, serving on its Local School Council, and joining the Chicago Police and Firefighter Training Academy. He’s also become a champion for Goode’s early college program and will graduate with both a high school diploma and an associate degree in applied science with a focus in computer science and web development. His participation in the early college program also led to an internship through Goode’s partnership with IBM.
“Once I started the early college program and saw all the opportunities, it really made me want to speak up about it,” he said. “I felt motivated to let people know that this is something that a lot of us, minorities especially, don’t get offered all the time.”
Throughout high school, Amoni’s commitments seemed to be pulling him between two possible careers: a police officer or—you guessed it—a principal. However, he explains that the pandemic gave him an opportunity to slow down and rediscover his passions. His mom is a psychiatric nurse practitioner, and his relationship with her has led him to envision himself in the medical field alongside her. While he’s keeping his options open, he’s currently planning to attend the University of Illinois at Chicago to major in biology and work toward becoming a surgeon.
Even though Amoni’s trajectory suggests that he entered high school with a lot of confidence and drive, he’ll be the first to tell you that building those qualities took time. At first, he wasn’t even sure if he made the right decision enrolling at Goode, but, after he took a look at his freshman year schedule and saw he was enrolled in all honors classes, he knew he could excel.
“My schedule instilled the feeling in me that someone, somewhere believed that I could perform on a higher scale,” he said. “Also, my first black male teacher was my ninth-grade English teacher, and he planted a seed in me that made me want to go further.”
Amoni quickly forgot that he had ever doubted his high school choice. In fact, he ended up becoming the student who would be at Goode well past the final bell because he loved being there so much. Seeing the school as a second home was especially important for him as a student of color and a member of the LGBTQ+ community, and he would encourage other students to take advantage of clubs to tailor their high school experience more to their identities and interests.
“Choosing extracurriculars and opportunities for student voice and leadership are just like picking a major—you should research and know what you’re getting yourself into first,” he said. “At the same time, they’re also kind of like a career because there are so many ways to grow from them.”
Graduating from high school after overcoming a pandemic has taught him about the importance of perspective. He appreciates that his teachers kept pushing him to keep growing over the past year since their encouragement helped him see COVID-19 as more of a potential distraction rather than an insurmountable challenge, keeping his confidence and outlook on life intact. Now, he wants to use his attitude to better his peers.
“One thing I would like every single student, especially minorities, to know is that life is what you make it,” he said. “If you go around with a negative mindset, the universe will reveal negative stuff to you. If you try to make life great, then it’s going to be great—I promise.”
Has a senior at your school taken on leadership roles to make a difference within their school community? Consider sharing their story with the district using our Class of 2021 Google Form.