Congratulations to our most recent recipient of the Tom Jeffers Fund for Continuing Education Scholarship, Eugene Marshall. Eugene is a Chicago YAP graduate and freshman at Northern Illinois University where he is majoring in Business.
Eugene was referred to YAP in 2010 and worked with Advocate Byron Steele. Eugene was 1 of 5 boys that Byron worked with on Chicago’s Southside at the time.
Eugene was surviving some serious challenges at the time. He lived with his grandmother in Roseland, a Chicago Southside neighborhood known for both poverty and violence. His grandmother’s house was over-crowded, with 3 generations living in a single-family dwelling.
“She did the best she could but there was 8 of us. It was hard,” says Eugene.
“Eugene immediately set himself apart from the group, and made sure that I understood the path he was on was a result of survival skills and not the path he wanted for his life” says Byron.
Eugene slept on the couch most nights only after the household settled down late at night. These late nights negatively impacted Eugene’s education. Both attendance and grades became serious issues.
After losing 2 close friends to gun violence on the same block, days apart, Eugene knew he needed to escape Roseland and with Byron’s guidance, began to view college as a possible avenue out of the neighborhood to some place safer and quieter.
Eugene needed to graduate high school first and with Byron’s support, graduated with a 1.7 GPA.
“Byron was hard about it,” says Eugene. “He kept saying ‘You gotta go.' He said he could help but ‘You gotta help yourself too.'"
“If it wasn’t for Byron, I wouldn’t be in college,” says Eugene. “I wasn’t thinking of college in high school. I hated school and I knew college was going to be harder."
Eugene applied to several colleges and was accepted by a few schools. He settled on NIU due to its close proximity to Chicago where he now thrives.
“When I arrived to NIU I made goals to work hard, graduate, and take the skills I learn to improve my impoverished community,” says Eugene. “This is the first time in my life I have not had to worry about bullets flying at random within my community, witnessing gang activity, drug usage, prostitution, and violence. Living on campus within a calm, competitive, and educational environment has transformed me being stress free and achieve a 3.6 GPA."
“YAP is one of the best things that happened to me,” says Eugene. “If YAP wasn’t there, I would have definitely been in trouble."
His goal is to graduate from NIU with a 3.8 GPA and then return to Chicago to start a business and give back. He’s particularly interested in motivational speaking with other Southside youth.
“They can relate to me more because I was just in their situation,” says Eugene.
Eugene plans to purchase a laptop with scholarship.