chool had always been his safe harbor.
Growing up in one of South Los Angeles’ bleakest, most violent neighborhoods, he learned about the world by watching “Jeopardy” and willed himself to become a straight-A student.
His teachers and his classmates at Jefferson High all rooted for the slight and hopeful African American teenager. He was named the prom king, the most likely to succeed, the senior class salutatorian. He was accepted to UC Berkeley, one of the nation’s most renowned public universities.
A semester later, Kashawn Campbell sat inside a cramped room on a dorm floor that Cal reserves for black students. It was early January, and he stared nervously at his first college transcript.
There wasn’t much good to see.
He had barely passed an introductory science course. In College Writing 1A, his essays — pockmarked with misplaced words and odd phrases — were so weak that he would have to take the class again.
He had never felt this kind of failure, nor felt this insecure. The second term was just days away and he had a 1.7 GPA. If he didn’t improve his grades by school year’s end, he would flunk out.
He tried to stay calm. He promised himself he would beat back the depression that had come in waves those first months of school. He would work harder, be better organized, be more like his roommate and new best friend, Spencer Simpson, who was making college look easy.
On a nearby desk lay a small diary he recently filled with affirmations and goals. He thumbed through it.
“I can do this! I can do this!” he had written. “Let the studying begin! … It’s time for Kashawn’s Comeback!”
This is the story of Kashawn Campbell’s freshman year.