At only 17 years old, Stephen Thomas faces the same decision many teenagers face: where will they go to college? What stands out about Stephen however is the number of colleges that want him, and the scholarships they are offering.
"The ones that I know off the top of my head are Loyola, North Central, Northern Illinois, CIU, DePaul," Stephen Thomas, a senior at Chicago's Bogan Computer Technical High School, said.
In fact, the recruiting list is so long that Thomas has racked up more than $1 million dollars in scholarships offers, from more than 30 schools. He's worked hard to be in the position that he's in, taking part in numerous clubs and organizations. He says he's focused on being a leader in and out the classroom, while also becoming a straight-A student, with a 4.47 grad point average.
Thomas is one of seven siblings in a single-parent home, and says while he's faced adversity from a young age, he's never used it as an excuse.
“When I am recognized, I won’t just have been another Black teen on the news for something bad like gang violence or me getting wrongfully shot. I want people to look at me and be like ‘wow he’s really out there doing something that we really thought we couldn’t do just because of how he looked,” Thomas said.
As he continues to defy the odds, his mother Ericka has been by his side. An educator herself, she became his first teacher at a young age.
“No matter what life presents you just go for it you write your own story we know there are narratives out here about our black boys but it is our responsibility to change that narrative,” she said.
While Stephen is aware of his success, he remains humble and is using his incredible story to inspire others around him.
“It’s not impossible. Again I am just a kid from Chicago that put the work in and put the time in, and (hopefully) somebody else is seeing this and they’re like 'wow I can do it too,'" he said.