Orwell Award Announcement SusanOhanian.Org Home

Successful Inner-City Student

Susan Notes: Here's an update on Cedric Jennings, the Washington D. C. student featured in the Pulitzer Prize book A Hope in the Unseen: An American Odyssey From the Inner City to the Ivy League." Funny thing: Just yesterday I looked at Ron Suskind's book on my shelves and wondered how Cedric was doing since his graduation from Brown. I highly recommend the book. Most impressive for me was the way Cedric's mother fought to give her child a good start--and to keep him on the right path. There was also a special teacher

In the mid-'90s, at Ballou High School in Washington, D.C., he was an A+ student. But he and other achievers had to hide their books, their talents and their potential to avoid being harassed by classmates.

Jennings, with this pluck and perseverance, won acceptance to Brown University and the attention of a Wall Street Journal reporter who wanted to chronicle what life was like for an inner-city teen looking to beat negative peer pressure. The reporter, Ron Suskind, followed Jennings through high school, culture shock in the Ivy League and graduation.

In 1998, his Pulitzer Prize-winning chronicles became a book, "A Hope in the Unseen: An American Odyssey From the Inner City to the Ivy League." The book won the hearts of parents and educators for its deeply personal look at Jennings' struggles and the challenges of urban education.

Today, Jennings, 26, will be the keynote speaker at the annual benefit dinner for the Negro Educational Emergency Drive, or NEED, a local organization that awards minority students higher education scholarships.

At Ballou, Jennings said he was once threatened with a gun for stepping on someone's tennis shoes, was criticized for "acting white" for wanting to excel and was constantly taunted.

"It was tough," said Jennings, who is a social worker and public speaker.

After graduating from Brown in 1999, Jennings worked for a while in information technology. It wasn't his cup of tea, so he went to Harvard University and earned a master's degree in human development and educational psychology, while working part time as a counselor in Boston public schools.

"I guess my heart is to help people and not make money," said Jennings, who left Boston and went to the University of Michigan to earn a master's in social work.

— Ervin Dyer
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of education issues vital to a democracy. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information click here. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.