Amaria Maldonado, Booker T. Washington High School Class of 2022

As many students prepare for the upcoming school year, we can’t forget to recognize the class of 2022! The last couple of years was a true testament of your tenacity, grit, hard work, and consistency to finish school at a high note.

COVID-19 disrupted the normalcy of our students and exacerbated the already broken public school education system. There are many challenges in life that are systemically designed to put Black youth behind, and time and time again students defy all odds.

The Defender is recognizing some of Houston’s brightest seniors at a few of the city’s predominately Black schools. These students all share their personal stories and advice for other students to consider if they’re interested in attending college in the near future.

Alimah Muhammed, Worthing High School Class of 2022

Name: Alimah Muhammed

School: Worthing High School

College: Howard University

Major/Minor: Film and Journalism

Defender: How did it feel to graduate this year?

Muhammed: It’s relieving to finally make it to this point. To stay on top of my game as a high school senior has been tiring and stressful.

Defender: What challenges did you overcome to accomplish your academic goals? 

Muhammed: Mainly always talking down on myself and feeling like the things that I’m doing aren’t good enough. Everything I do I pushed harder but it ended up leading to burnout. I went through a depression stage, so I had to overcome that to get to this point.

Defender: Why is college important to you? 

Muhammed: Life isn’t about what you know, it’s who you know. So, going to such an illustrious college to me is about making those connections with the right people and creating the proper team that will help me succeed in the future.

Defender: Where do you see yourself in the future?

Muhammed: Helping people rebuild my community and create various businesses and schools just to help Black people flourish.

Defender: What advice do you have for students looking up to you? 

Muhammed: No matter how hard things get keep pushing because the hard work will pay off at the end.

Autumn Aaron, Jake Yates High School Class of 2022

Name: Autumn Aaron

School: Jake Yates High School

College: Lamar University

Major/Minor: Business and Administration/ Psychology

Defender: How did it feel to graduate this year?

Aaron: I’m absolutely proud of myself. I’ve gone through so much since elementary school. People would be shocked to learn that I started school in the second grade. I’ve moved a lot throughout the years dealing with personal family situations, but I worked hard to get me up to this point.

Defender: What challenges did you overcome to accomplish your academic goals? 

Aaron: Staying consistent in school was hard. We went through some pretty difficult financial situations and there wasn’t enough support from family members. It was traumatizing because I felt I wasn’t meeting my expectations. I wanted to be at the top of my class.

Defender: Why is college important to you? 

Aaron: Knowledge is my strength. I’m very analytical. I like to learn and explore. Your degree is your credential. So, anything you want to do in life you can do it times 10 with a degree. That’s why I want to go to school.

Defender: Where do you see yourself in the future?

Aaron: There are a lot of teenagers that don’t know their own potential. I would say believe in yourself and never give up. Take the bad negativity and turn it into something positive.

Amaria Maldonado, Booker T. Washington High School Class of 2022

Name: Amaria Maldonado

School: Booker T. Washington High School

College: Union College (New York City)

Major/Minor: Mechanical Engineering

Defender: How did it feel to graduate this year?

Maldonaldo: It’s a big relief especially with everything that went on in the past couple of years with the pandemic. I’m glad to finally pull through after all of it.

Defender: What challenges did you overcome to accomplish your academic goals? 

Maldonaldo: My changes involved switching over to the school and not knowing what I was doing or if I was going to finish. My parents got sick having to deal with the pressure that came with the pandemic impact.

Defender: Why is college important to you? 

Maldonaldo: I’m a first-generation student. I’ve never had a an example of that. So I had to set the example for my family and I want to be the one who breaks generational curses.

Defender: Where do you see yourself in the future?

Maldonaldo: You have to keep pushing no matter the obstacle. I you plan to go to college, have a goal. Reach out to your college advisors and other support systems at school to support you.

Brice Bady, Wheatley High School Class of 2022

Name: Brice Bady

School: Wheatley High School

College: Morehouse College

Major/Minor: Political Science

Defender: How did it feel to graduate this year?

Bady: It feels amazing to graduate. I am grateful that the pandemic has lightened up, so I was able to experience senior festivities. I had the opportunity to go paint-balling, ride rollercoasters at fiesta Texas, and enjoy my prom at the Aquarium. I am also ecstatic about what my future holds. I know that the possibilities in college are endless, and I am ready to explore and embark on life’s journey.

Defender: What challenges did you overcome to accomplish your academic goals? 

Bady: I had to overcome a lot to get to where I am today. Coming into high school I had no sense of time management and struggled with prioritizing what truly mattered. I had to learn the importance of disciple and keeping my goals at the forefront of my mind. Then the pandemic hit. I lost sight of everything that truly meant something to me. The world was shut down, our cities were on fire from riots, murders of African Americans were televised daily, many of my family members were sick with covid and my aunt and uncle passed away from it. The weight of all of this and more consumed me to the point where I could barely get anything done. I was lost and believed that my world was falling apart. Luckily I have a mother that noticed and got me the help that I needed.  In overcoming this slump I learned an important lesson; I may not have control over everything in my life, but I still have control over my actions and how I view obstacles.

Defender: Why is college important to you? 

Bady: College is important to me because of what it can prepare me for. I want to be a lawyer and in this occupation, you need to be able to communicate effectively, network with people, and be able to make strict deadlines. These are all things that college is supposed to teach you. Going to college will set me up for a successful career by not only teaching me invaluable skills but also allowing me to earn a degree and go on to become a lawyer.

Defender: What do you want to be in the future? 

Bady: I want to be a lawyer and make sure that everyone gets equal representation under the law. Many times with our justice system, poor and minority people are overlooked and not given adequate representation. This leads to longer and often time wrongful convictions. I want to start as a public defender and help those who are in these situations. Later on in my career, I want to organize and push legislation that revitalizes our prison system so that it will be more focused on rehabilitating people rather than making money.

Defender: What advice do you have for students looking up to you? 

Bady: I would advise them to find something that brings them true joy and follow it. In life, you will always have challenges, and things may come and go. Joy is eternal, and without it, life can seem pointless. So I would caution them took seek joy in whatever they do.

Zhane Milton, Kashmere High School Class of 2022 Credit: mtitus

Name: Zhane Milton

School: Kashmere High School

College: University of Texas-Austin

Major/Minor: Psychology

Defender: How did it feel to graduate this year?

It’s exciting. My biggest goal was to continue my education and to finally make that happen is amazing.

Defender: What challenges did you overcome to accomplish your academic goals?

Senioritis was my biggest problem. Trying to focus and keep my grades up and not lose sight of the finish line even when I was tired was difficult.

Defender: Why is college important to you? 

I feel like without a college education I wouldn’t get into the career for my choice.

Defender: What advice do you have for students looking up to you?

Work hard, try your best, and if you have doubt just remember why you are doing what you’re doing.

Laura Onyeneho

I cover Houston's education system as it relates to the Black community for the Defender as a Report for America corps member. I'm a multimedia journalist and have reported on social, cultural, lifestyle,...