A teacher introduced Alicia Wilson, pictured above, to opportunities, like the CollegeBound program, that helped her finance her education. Now, she aims to do the same for others. (Courtesy Photo)

By Rev. Dorothy S. Boulware
AFRO Managing Editor

Urban children often have to face so many obstacles to reach their goals, personal and professional, it’s a wonder that any make it. Children in Baltimore have issues including after school safety, food insecurity, public and domestic violence, in addition to the wide availability of drugs and the draw to gangs. . 

Alicia Wilson allowed none of these to block her path.

She said it was her faith and the intervention of people from sometimes surprising places and positions.

One day, “We were in the hallway at Mervo (Mergenthaler High School) playing games after school. We had to wait for my mother to take us home. Mr. Pryor asked to see the report cards we’d just received. When he saw I had all 100s, he wanted to know whether or not I was going to college,” Wilson said.

“I told him probably at some point when I could afford it.”

Curious about her ability, he took her to the College Bound officer in the guidance office and garnered for her a fee-waived SAT.

She, of course, made the highest score the school had seen – 1200.

She was immediately introduced to a program called College Bound.

It supplied her with exposure to successful people and to endless possibilities.

So while she refused to be blocked on her path, she has also done the same for the young people she’s encountered. More than 100, but who’s counting?

For her, mentoring is the thing.

And for that reason, Alicia Wilson is chosen to be one of the AFRO’s two Baltimore Newsmakers of the Year, 2021. 

She completed an undergraduate degree in political science at UMBC and a Juris Doctor from the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law. 

She’s currently vice president for economic development at Johns Hopkins University and Johns Hopkins Health System.

She just can’t help helping.

In addition to her work, she meets with mentees, individually and in groups. She lets nothing get in her way.

In addition to her work as vice president for economic development at Johns Hopkins University and Johns Hopkins Health System, Alicia Wilson, second from right, meets with mentees, individually and in groups. (Courtesy Photo)

“Someone gave $25 so I could take that SAT test. Who gave it? I owe somebody a whole lot of money and a whole lot of thanks.”

And she pays that perceived debt forward every day.

That chance after school encounter set her up for an incredible future.

“I had the opportunity to intern at a law firm at 15. I was introduced to colleges early on,” Wilson said. “I met Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, president of UMBC, when I was just 16.”

She also met those she calls the “juggernauts” of the legal industry.

Sherilyn Ifill, now president of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. Tom Perez, currently running for governor of Maryland.

“Exposure is so important. I saw things and I had faith that I could be and do.”

And she understands the battle is not always with the children only.

“Many times we have to do a lot of work with the parent, helping them become comfortable with the concept of college.”

And she has a ready answer when people ask why she stays in Baltimore, when she could be successful anywhere she chose.

“Baltimore has its challenges, but it has so many reasons to be here,” she said as she listed some of the selfless men and women doing good work. The late Bishop Douglas Miles, also a founder of College Bound, was one of her mentors. She added AFRO Publisher and CEO Frances “Toni” Draper.

“Baltimore is a city that you can do so much for, if you continue to be positive about it.”

She’s doing a few important things herself. Too many to list.

One of them is working with charitable organizations. And she was recently elected chair of the CollegeBound Foundation, the first African-American and the youngest board chair in the foundation’s 30-year history.

She said you can build relationships, really deep relationships with people.

“I love the city, the brick and the mortar.”

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