Quaymir Cephas knows he hasn’t lived up to his potential.
Without knowing that it matches the research findings on what student characteristics deter college completion, he rattles off his own story: mediocre grades, spotty class attendance, a tendency to get in trouble, failure to take full advantage of available supports. Those included his counselor and a College Success Center at University City High School that provided tutoring, mentoring, college trips, and a community of students with college aspirations.
Cephas, a reflective person, blames himself, not the school, which was going through a chaotic period and closed down entirely the year after he left.
“They did all the teaching that they could do,” he said. “The child has to decide what kind of person he grows up to be.”
Cephas never thought seriously about going to college until he had a conversation with a classmate who was going to Clark Atlanta University in Georgia.
“He was saying, ‘You’re crazy. Us both having the same grades, I know you can do just as good as I’m doing.’”
Cephas enrolled in Community College of Philadelphia right after graduation. He stayed only a semester, discouraged by where he was placed: in non-credit-bearing courses for students who need to catch up on their skills.
“I thought it was a waste of time. I was learning the same thing I was learning in high school,” he said.
He applied to Temple University and started there last summer in its “continuing studies” program for older students. He took two classes – again, basic math and writing. He took a year off, he said, while his girlfriend worked on completing her degree in communications. In the meantime, he has worked in several different jobs, including maintenance at Lincoln Financial Field.
Now, at 21, he feels he is letting himself and his friend down, not to mention his girlfriend and family.
He is determined to go back to Temple in the fall and start taking psychology courses. He wants to validate the faith of his friend.
“It would have been a letdown for him and myself, more so to him, watching me fade away, as much potential as he saw in me. I gotta do this, not just for me, but for other people around me, people who actually believed in my ... trying to do it.”