Overcoming the Odds (In a Giant Way)

Overcoming the Odds (In a Giant Way)

Two men with degrees from IUPUI are staring down the statistics and paving the way for young, black men to achieve excellence.

It’s a long way from Haughville to IUPUI.

Only two miles or so, actually.

But what if you step outside and see your future foretold in the shell casings scattered on your street? What if you can see only two paths for your life: gangs or drugs? Add in roadblocks: single-parent household, low-income family, first-generation college student, a culture scarred by racism.

Suddenly that distance—between a high-crime neighborhood on the west side of Indianapolis and the city’s thriving urban campus—might seem impassable. It did at one time for Marquel Thompson.

“Growing up in the neighborhood I did—walking outside seeing the things that I saw—I didn’t want to deal with it for the rest of my life,” Thompson says. “So I had to find a way to get out, to make a better life not only for myself but for my family.”

Courting Excellence

Thompson says that his mother had always demanded that he work hard and focus on his studies, but it wasn’t until high school that he realized excelling in school could be his way out. And it all clicked because he became a Giant King.

Giant Kings is a program at Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis that provides an all-around support system for young, black males. It focuses on high school and middle school students, plus a mentor partnership with students at a nearby elementary school. The group is open to all, but members are required to achieve at least a 3.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale.