How City Year Milwaukee’s Meralis Hood learned ‘the power of not being perfect’

Alan Borsuk:

The roots of Hood’s story lie in the mountains of Puerto Rico, where, in the 1970s, Hood’s mother, Lydia Torres, saw an ad for bilingual teaching jobs in Milwaukee that paid considerably more than what her family was living on. The family moved to Milwaukee and Hood’s mother taught for MPS for three decades. Roberto Torres, Hood’s father, worked in a factory in Milwaukee and was a member of the 440th Airlift Wing of the Air Force Reserve, then based at Mitchell Field.

Hood was born in Milwaukee in 1980. She excelled in school, learning to read early and skipping first grade. She entered Morse Middle School’s gifted and talented program as a 10-year-old sixth-grader. Her family had high expectations and she saw herself as “an achiever personality.”

But she hit a roadblock. Her grades fell sharply. “I remember feeling very frustrated,” she said. She was insecure, depressed. “I was thinking, man, I thought I was smart. . . . It was super excruciating.”

She made it through middle school and ninth grade at Hamilton High. In the summer after ninth grade, she read a magazine story about a woman with attention deficit disorder who struggled in school. It sounded a lot like her own story. The result: Hood went on medication for ADD and her academic performance rose.

She entered Marquette University at 16. She struggled in college early on, and later saw that she was depressed. But she graduated in 4½ years.