Underclassmen Years Pave the Way for College: Keneon’s Story

Keneon Williams has taken and passed every Honors and Advanced Placement (AP) course offered at Thurgood Marshall Academy (TMA). It’s no wonder why his G.P.A is a 4.2 and he’s on his way to University of Rochester this fall on a full scholarship. Excelling in AP Government, AP Language, AP Literature, AP Calculus, and scoring the second highest in the senior class on the critical math and reading sections of the SAT, Williams has proven that academic excellence is within reach.

“Even though you have the support of teachers and staff [at TMA], it’s all on you,” said Williams. “You have to work hard and put your energy and effort into the right things in order to achieve. Just because teachers allowed me to turn work in late, I practiced submitting work on time because, in the real-world, I won’t always have that flexibility,” said the wise 17-year-old.

Since freshmen year, Williams focused heavily on his academic performance knowing that the end result of success would be college. “Ninth, tenth, and eleventh grade are important because colleges closely review your grades from those years. Based on those findings, colleges then determine how you will perform as a student,” he said.

Keneon (left) leads a chemistry demonstration during TMA’s Shining Start Gala.

Williams is one of seven students in Washington, DC to receive the Gates Millennium Scholarship (GMS), which can be used to pursue a degree in any undergraduate major and selected graduate programs at accredited colleges or universities. This scholarship is dedicated to removing the financial barriers to education for high-performing, low-income students. Williams, who is among 96% of TMA students who live in DC’s most underserved communities, plans to double major in Biochemistry and Linguistics but is open to exploring different interest areas during his college career.

Williams joined a number of University of Rochester Facebook groups to meet fellow classmates of 2019. His goal is to make a seamless transition of going from a school where he knows everyone to a university where he will have to adjust to a new environment. Though he’ll be new to the University of Rochester, Williams is no stranger to college. In fact, he earned college credit during a dual enrollment program at the University of the District of Columbia Community College.

Williams, the second in his family to go to college, follows the example of his older sister. However, he admits that had it not been for the College Counseling Office at TMA, he wouldn’t have been as informed about extended resources and scholarship opportunities that will pay for his entire college career.

“I finished high school and I am going to college without having to take out any loans,” he said with gratitude. “The college counselors [at TMA] always have their doors open and provide so much support,” he ends.