On the surface, 19-year-old Charnell, seems tough, intolerant and hard. She’s a former boxer with a strong independent streak. Since joining the program last year, I’ve come to respect her inherent leadership abilities.
I recall, at the beginning of the 2012 program, we felt Charnell should be booted from the project because she had missed too many days. We immediately changed our minds after we talked and I learned Charnell suffers from acute asthma and had walked several blocks to class every day on those 100 degree-plus St. Louis summer 2012 heat days. We are so happy she stayed with the program because Charnell is a gifted poet and spoken word artist who can draft magical, moving words in a moment’s notice.
She also proved to be one of our most active and engaged students, a proven role model and has become an excellent spokesperson for the project during her many media interviews.