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West Side student gets full ride to Columbia University

‘I want to be that person that people can look up to’

By Yukare Nakayama, ABC7 News

At Chicago Bulls College Prep, Jaylen Starr is known as a legend in the halls and in the classroom. The high school senior got into his top school, Columbia University, on a full ride. His road to the Ivy League was an uphill battle.

“I come from a community that’s plagued by violence, prostitution, drugs, a lot of stuff,” said Starr. He added, ” I’ve dealt with this stuff for years of my life and I’ve been able to navigate through life and become a successful Black man and I want them to be inspired.”

The teen shared with ABC 7 a pivotal moment in his life, when he was thirteen-years-old. A cop stopped him on the street after Starr dropped his sister off at camp. He said the cop told him he looked similar to a wanted felon from Englewood. From then on, Starr said his quest has been to defy all stereotypes associated with Black and brown people.

“There are stars in this community who want to change the world and these communities,” said Starr.

Starr and his family grew up in the Austin neighborhood of Chicago where he said he witnessed drug deals and gang activity on a daily basis.

“I don’t have a lot, but what I do have, I instill it in my kids and I let them know that education. Education is what you need to succeed in life,” said Robmesha Williams, Starr’s mother.

“I want to be that person that people can look up to, not just in my family but in the community,” said Starr.

So what does the future look like for young Starr? Limitless.

“This is just a next chapter. This is just my foot in the door. I haven’t even started yet, I haven’t even scratched the surface.”

This article originally appeared on ABC7 News.

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