University Park, IL,
14:46 PM

First Generation Student: Jarrell Harris

Jarrell Harris grew up on the South Side of Chicago and today runs a business where he mentors children ages 3 to 13 and inspires them to see beyond their circumstances. Harris is an Early Elementary Education major at GSU who wants  to one day run his own preschool/early childhood academy.

Here's Harris' story:

"The town I grew up in is known for violence. College was not something people always talked about. But I wanted different.

I decided I wanted to break the generational curse. I didn’t want to be a statistic. I wanted more and I knew a college degree would help. Originally, I started on my path at a different university.

I moved away from home and went to college. I thought I had arrived. There was no one around to tell me what to do.

What I soon realized was that I was overwhelmed and lost. I was busy having fun; but not realizing the importance of being a responsible student.

It was not long before I was back home.

Although I ended up leaving that university, I learned a lot. It taught me about responsibility and underscored my determination to finish my degree.

I eventually earned my associate’s degree at Prairie State Community College and am currently enrolled at Governors State University to finish my bachelor’s degree.

Unlike my first attempt at a university, I am more focused on my success as a student. I have found people at GSU who have helped me grow in knowledge and as a person. Recently, I was awarded the Dual Degree Program Male Success Initiative scholarship to help cover my tuition and fees. I am also a member of the Kappa Delta Pi Honor Society.

At times, my classes are overwhelming. But I have learned that I need to push myself and seek out help when I need it. I have also realized that I can achieve things beyond what I once imagined possible.

Now I’m studying early childhood education. It is my passion — I got hooked while working a job at a preschool. I also have my own business tutoring and mentoring children ages 3 to 13. My hope is to provide them an example of what they can achieve, that they too can blaze their own trail, and that nothing is out of reach.

My younger siblings talk to me about my classes, and my mother — who had her doubts when I first left for college — asks me about the different dynamics of college. I feel like a role model and that my experiences are shining a light for my younger siblings to follow.

It hasn’t been easy, but it’s been worth it.

For others who find themselves in the same situation, my advice is to keep pushing. There’s going to be a time when things seem overwhelming or challenging; but just keep driving and keep seeking help because you can do this."