MILWAUKEE — It's graduation season and I had the pleasure of meeting a young man who not only graduated at the top of his class, but sends a message that believing and achieving are the keys to defying the odds.
Jaden Bandy is the Class of 2022 Valedictorian of Milwaukee Marshall High School. With his life experiences, he has a special message for his classmates.
"No matter the circumstances that you face and the challenges, because we all go through challenges, I still want people to look up and see the light and see that they can chase their dreams and desires," said Bandy.
This first-generation college student is headed to Milwaukee School of Engineering this fall on a full scholarship.
"As a career, I want to be in robotics engineering. Ever since I was 12, I've always wanted to do robotics", said Bandy.
Things weren't always so cut-and-dried for Bandy. He didn't learn to read until he was 10-years-old.
Statistics show that children who aren't reading at grade level by the end of 3rd grade are four times as likely to drop out of high school. Refusing to be a statistic, Bandy knew he wanted better for himself.
"I think I was 11 when I was like, yeah let's turn this thing around and let's get my life together. Everyone that offered help, oh my gosh whew," he said.
Bandy learned how to read and eventually caught up with his classmates... and then graduated at the top of his class.
"Everyone who offered help, I took it. They knew I was a little behind and I was at a point where I didn't really have anything to lose," Bandy said. "I was at my lowest point. It was only up from there so I practiced how to read."
He has a message for other boys his age who might choose the wrong path.
"It's easy to do the wrong thing," Bandy said. "I think that they need just a little bit of guidance sometimes. They need a little bit of help to keep them on track. Some need a little more help than others. That's why I want to be a mentor."
Bandy credits his teachers at Marshall, who he says were all supportive and willing to help...especially College Career Counselor Patrice Beckley.
"Having a student like Jaden here at Milwaukee Marshall was just so inspirational and amazing," said Beckley. "Just to know Jaden is an honor and a privilege."
Bandy also has a message for himself.
"A couple of weeks ago, I read a letter to myself and I opened it. It was from 2019 when Covid had just started and I guess he always knew I wanted to go to MSOE, because that's what he said. For the me right now, I want him to buckle down on college. I would tell him to keep it going, keep a steady pace, don't stress about things you can't control, and stay dedicated."