December 4, 2012

Edmond ’15 Strives to Make College a Reality for Inner-City Youth

Jonathan Edmond '15 believes that you get out of life what you put into it.

In the spring of 2012, he heard about the inaugural Community Service Summer Fellowship Program that was being co-sponsored by Emmanuel's Center for Mission Engagement and the Jean Yawkey Center for Community Leadership at a general members meeting of the Black Student Union. He jumped at the opportunity to fill one of the four spaces.

Inspired by the work he'd previously done with the Hyde Square Task Force and the South End Technology Center, Edmond developed a full-time independent project focused on promoting the importance of college education and technology literacy among inner-city youth in Boston. He reached out to several community centers in the city, including the Vine Street Community Center and the Castle Square Community Center, to speak with the youth about making college a reality.

"The kids wanted to be basketball players or football players or rappers," Edmond said. "That's what they were familiar with. They thought, 'I know so much about this, so I can become it.' I wanted them to know so much about college that they felt like they could become college students."

For Edmond, his project hit close to home.

Growing up in a large family in Mattapan, he never believed college was a possibility until his mother enrolled him in a charter high school and he became involved with the South End Technology Center, founded by Boston educator and activist, Mel King. 

"Mel King set me in the right direction," Edmond said. "He told me to focus on the books." In danger of failing, Edmond turned his education around during his junior year of high school and became a self-described "workaholic," making the honor roll for the first time. He began to think of school not as work, but as an investment in his future, so he could support himself and the people in his life, including his mother and his autistic older brother.

"I looked around at the people in my neighborhood and thought, 'Why should I be like those guys who just live off of their struggling parents? Why should I not try to better my own situation?'" he said. Further motivating his decision to get serious about his future, his older brother was shot and killed a few blocks from their home during his senior year of high school.

As a rising sophomore at Emmanuel, Edmond knew he wanted to share his experiences with the kids at the community centers, whose lives are so similar to his own.

"It's a tough story to tell, but I use these things to get them to listen. Whatever I can do to help somebody learn, I try to do."

Edmond has stayed in contact with the organizations that he served during the fellowship. "I don't want them to think, 'Jonathan was just here for the summer,'" he said. "I want them to know that I'm their friend and that I want to help them out any way I can."

Edmond also acknowledges his position as a young, hip role model for the kids, offering a perspective different than that of a teacher or a parent.

"Coming from me, it means more," he said. "They are really happy to show me their successes, the A's on their report cards."

An accounting major, Edmond hopes to intern with Goldman Sachs in the near future, a head start on his ultimate goal of becoming a successful entrepreneur and philanthropist.