SALISBURY, MD---In 1997, Cedric Jennings was where the freshman class of Salisbury University is today: anxiously preparing for the first year of college.
However, the Washington, D.C., native took a different path than most students getting to Brown University. In high school, he survived threats from gang leaders and requested extra work from his teachers just to keep up with students in other school districts. He also had his own background to face as the son of a convicted drug dealer. Yet he not only survived; he prospered, going on to earn his M.Ed. from Harvard University after graduating from Brown.
Jennings, now pursuing an M.S.W. at the University of Michigan, shares his story 7 p.m. Thursday, August 26, in the Great Hall of Holloway Hall. The next day, he serves as SU’s Fall Convocation speaker, addressing more than 1,200 members of the freshman class.
Those students read about Jennings in Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ron Suskind’s book A Hope in the Unseen: An American Odyssey from the Inner City to the Ivy League, which was assigned as part of this year’s New Student Reader Program. A writer for the Wall Street Journal, Suskind followed Jennings from his senior year at Washington’s Ballou High School to his freshman year at Brown, reporting on his struggle.
Faculty and staff lead students in small group discussions about the book following the Convocation ceremony.
Jennings attributes his success to his mother, who never let him give up despite the difficulties he faced. Those obstacles followed him during his first year at Brown, where he felt he did not fit in with his often well-to-do classmates.
The New York Times calls Suskind’s story of Jennings’ struggles an “extraordinary, formula-shattering book.” The Washington Post hails it as “a story of sheer human grit that should be read by others as an example and inspiration.” National Public Radio lauds the novel as “Absolutely gripping. A sort of suspense novel of the human psyche.”
Admission to Jennings’ August 26 talk is free and the public is invited. For more information call 410-543-6030 or visit the SU Web site at www.salisbury.edu.