I’ve always wanted to be a good writer but no matter how hard I practiced or read many writing books/articles, my writing never improved. It wasn’t that I didn’t understand the material, I just needed guidance and was afraid to ask.

You may say it’s just as simple as asking for help, but I didn’t know how coming from a person where everyone always asked for my assistance. I was the person that gave help, I didn’t need help, so I thought. My entire freshman year in high school, I struggled in silence.

It wasn’t until my sophomore year in high school at Coppin Academy High School in Baltimore that I found hope in Keisha Smith, who taught AP English.

For three long years, Ms. Smith never allowed me to settle for anything less excellence. I can remember so vividly, sitting in her class and hating her because she would always mark up my essays in red ink with comments, remarks and suggestions. She always gave me the opportunity to rewrite my essays and resubmit it for a final grade. Sometimes, I rewrote things three times until I got it correct.

That’s how passionate Ms. Smith was about her job, never allowing me to settle. She helped me with my writing skills and even held extra classes for students struggling with their writing.

Ms. Smith, gave this inner city kid, born and raised in Cherry Hill, Baltimore, a way out of the ghetto. I wrote my way to the top, graduating from Coppin Academy in 2011, in the top 10% of my class with a 3.5GPA.

I enrolled at Baltimore City Community College and received the prestigious Granville T. Woods Scholarship, founded by the late Christolyne Buie.

This Baltimore kid was able to study abroad in Ghana, West Africa. I watched in awe how 73 students were able to sit in a classroom with one teacher and be actively engaged. While I thought growing up in Cherry Hill was rough, I had a new profound sense for life and words.

This scholarship afforded me to graduate from Community College and go on to Morgan State University on a Scholarship. After obtaining my degree in Broadcast & Integrated Media Production I have interned at some of the best news organizations, from WBAL TV-11 (NBC Affiliate), WBJC 91.5 FM Radio Station and now The Afro-American Newspapers.

To every Black- Boy who wants a way out of the ‘hood I say to you, “Don’t let these streets or the prison system consume you, you are Black Kings who must fight constantly to maintain your God given purpose and status.”

I am R.I.C.H. (Raised in Cherry Hill!).

Carlton James Jr. is an intern in the Baltimore office of the AFRO. He is a graduate of Morgan State University.


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