Legacy Early College stands as a beacon of hope for students in Greenville’s struggling Sterling neighborhood. Housed in the historic Parker High School, Legacy was founded to provide a “quality, rigorous, and relevant educational program leading to college graduation” and to empower “under-served urban students to become productive, healthy, principled citizens in a changing society.”
One of these students, sophomore Ta’Shaun Harris, dreams of a bright future in automotive design or as a graphic designer. And thanks to his education journey at Legacy, he is charting a path towards success.
When Ta’Shaun first came to Legacy in fifth grade, he shares that he didn’t enjoy school. He and his mom were going through a lot, and school just wasn’t a priority for him. At his old school in North Carolina, he often got into fights and admits he didn’t listen to or particularly like his teachers. All of this came at a cost. “I didn’t know they could hold you back for discipline issues,” he says.
What changed when he arrived at Legacy?
Ta’Shaun shares that much of it came down to relationships. His principal kept him motivated through the challenging transition: “I knew I could do it if I kept hanging on.”
For Ta’Shaun, Legacy has a family feel. “I can talk to my teachers now instead of ignoring them,” he said. His teachers have also inspired him with confidence while holding him to high academic expectations. “They told me I’m a good artist, and once you believe ‘I am a good artist!’ it builds the self-confidence to believe you can be what you want in the world.”
Ta’Shaun reflects with thoughtful honesty about the challenges he still faces:
“Algebra 1 was okay, but geometry deals with logic and all this other stuff – doesn’t stick with me as much as English. My other challenge is myself. How do I motivate myself to stop playing video games and study more? Motivate myself to come to After-School to do homework and get help from teachers. Taking time out of my day to focus on my own education.”
He also talks candidly about how he believes education will change his future:
“I grew up in the hood and stuff. The people there will end up in prison or dead or strung out on drugs. I didn’t grow up having stuff that a lot of other kids have. I don’t want my kids growing up around this, and I don’t want to have this be an influence on my life. I always felt different, but now I see how. It’s about being mature and learning from the people around me.
There’s a lot of wisdom in the ‘hood.’ They’d tell me stories about what they did and how they got in trouble. This one guy who lived across the street from me got a full ride to go to college to play basketball, but he came back and started hanging out with old friends and got busted in a crack house and then all that money was wasted and he’s still in the same place he grew up.”
The winning formula of student determination, empowered by the support of encouraging teachers and a strong academic foundation, is changing lives at Legacy. Students are earning dual enrollment credits at Greenville Tech. Graduates are going on to receive full-ride scholarships to highly competitive universities like Furman. They are typically the first in their extended family to attend college.
When asked what it means to her that Ta’Shaun is getting an education that provides him the opportunity to reach his full potential, his great grandma, Sandra, says:
“I didn’t go to college, his mother didn’t, his grandpa has a full ride to college and blew it because he was in love. So for Te’Shaun to be the first one of this family to go to college and get a degree would be phenomenal.I’ve gotten my education others ways. People ask me where I got my education and I tell them G-E-D and L-I-F-E.First black female to work in city hall in Davenport, IA back in the 60’s. Back then if you could walk and breathe you could get a job. But that’s not enough anymore. Today if you just get a GED you’ll be working a minimum wage job. Not everybody has to get a 4-year degree, but you have to at least get something – get a 2-year certification. Truck drivers and welders make good money!For him to be able to go to college and not struggle and have to worry about his education…he will be the first one.”
She also shares her appreciation for Legacy’s commitment to helping each child uncover their individual passion. “If a child tells you what they want to be, listen to them, because they’ll do it. You just help them get there. Let them pursue what they want to be. That’s what I like about this school, they let kids focus more on what they want to do – not one-size fits all.”
Sandra’s work in the Greenville community through programs like CIRCLES has sharpened her perspective on the importance of family support to student success:
“A lot of times children of color lack family support. If we can help the moms and dads and then the kids will do better. They’ve been so beaten down and lived in generational poverty and nobody’s ever said, ‘You’re smart and can do it.’ That’s why I never went to college. My self-esteem told me I wasn’t college material.”
Ta’Shaun says it gives him great motivation to see his great grandma happy and benefit from her life wisdom. “To know I have someone in my corner that I can always go to for advice reminds me how I need to get back on track.”
His advice to other kids who are struggling with school?
“Hang in there. I’m not a straight-A student, and there are students a lot smarter than me. But it’s all about how you look at it: you have to be real with yourself and know that God is there with you. Believe in something and strive to do better every day. Control your attitude and be you.”