“Fear is inevitable, but letting that fear control my life is intolerable,” she said.
Danielle Knight was 14 when she learned the importance of “speaking up for the soft-spoken,” she said. That’s when her cousin Shamoya was killed by a stray bullet in the Bronx on New Year’s Eve. They were the same age. Since then, she has felt compelled to tell the stories of people like Shamoya and the communities they come from.
Ms. Knight, 17, will major in journalism at Stony Brook University. Part of her wants to travel the world, while another part wants to be the next Don Lemon. Maybe she’ll start her own radio station, too, she said.
For Tigerlily Hopson, 17, college didn’t always seem within reach. In elementary school, her love for storytelling was at odds with her dyslexia. And at home, her mother pored over expenses with a calculator in hand while the cupboards were empty.
But Ms. Hopson said she came into her own as a journalist and activist in high school, when she helped resurrect her school’s newspaper. This fall, she will be joining Mr. Zhang at Yale.
And then there’s Nikole Rajgor, a 17-year-old from the Bronx. At 14, she took on a responsibility that few people in her life knew about. Her mother agreed to temporarily foster a friend’s newborn son, and Ms. Rajgor cared for him while balancing school. While bathing him one day, he called her “mama.”
Despite the stress and dirty diapers, she said her time raising a foster baby helped her become more mature. After a year, it was time for the baby to go home.
For her, attending Hunter College will be a time for her to make connections and explore her interests. Ms. Rajgor said she would like to become a journalist, write at least one book and amplify the stories of others. But ultimately, she said, finding success will be simple.
“As long as I’m happy,” she said.