STUDENTS | June 15, 2021
One of the highlights of David Brown’s experience at Harper High School was his sophomore year homecoming. As a member of the football team, he’ll never forget the feeling of everyone cheering him on when he danced for them, something he was known for at Harper as part of the Next Level Dance Troupe. His extracurricular activities helped him stay grounded during four years that he describes as an adventure full of highs and lows.
“There’s so much you go through in high school. You’ve got your tribulations and the good and the bad,” he said. “You’ve got the times when you don’t feel like doing work, but you know you have to do it. You’ve got the times when you don’t feel like you can make it, but you do make it.”
Inside the classroom, Harper’s culinary arts classes—part of the school’s career and technical education (CTE) program—ended up being David’s favorites. While he initially joined the program just to prove to his skeptical mother that he could cook, he developed a close relationship with his teacher, Mrs. Darlene Austin, and began to excel. He even gave virtual cooking demonstrations for his peers and plans to continue developing his passion by joining the United States Army as a food service specialist.
Ms. Raquel Taylor, Harper’s counselor, says she’s going to miss David’s dancing and is excited to hear about what he accomplishes over the next year, even though she knows it will be difficult to stay in contact with him while he’s in the Army. Another student she will be keeping her eye on is Kamoy McFarlane, who came to Harper after emigrating from Jamaica three years ago.
“Kamoy is a light. It’s been amazing watching him become more independent and confident,” she said. “I’m always going to remember his sense of humor as there’s never a dull moment with him.”
This year, Kamoy pushed himself academically by taking a college-level African American Studies course on top of his other classes. He believes that earning an ‘A’ in this class was the result of refining his mindset throughout high school to become more tenacious and strengthen his work ethic. On top of that, as a student who grew to love civics and other social science classes, he did well because he enjoyed the subject matter.
“At first, I was scared to chime in during a college class because I felt like I was just a high school student,” he said. “After a while, I started getting more comfortable sharing my thoughts because the professor did an excellent job of connecting his experiences with what he was teaching us.”
Kamoy will never forget the first time he made it on the school’s honor roll, an accomplishment that foreshadowed what will be one of his final and greatest achievements at Harper—being named the school’s valedictorian. In between those two moments, he found it hard to take school seriously when the pandemic started, but, with the support of his parents, he was able to get back on track and thrive once more. After high school, he plans to attend the Dawson Technical Institute at Kennedy-King College. In the next decade or two, he sees himself owning his own plumbing company.
David also plans to open a business—a soul food restaurant—in the future. In addition to everything he learned from his culinary arts classes, his time at Harper has prepared him to reach that goal by reminding him of the importance of staying focused on what matters to him, something that he thinks all graduating seniors should remember.
“My message to everyone who is graduating in 2021 is to follow through with whatever you said you were going to do,” he said. “Don’t stop at all and push yourself because it is going to be worth it in the end.”
David and Kamoy are making Harper proud as part of the Class of 2021, just like students at other CPS high schools across the city. Make sure to follow Chicago Public Schools on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to meet more incredible graduates.