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Books and bullets, the life of an Harold Washington student

Books and bullets, the life of an Harold Washington student

By Sebastián Hidalgo
Staff Photographer

On a 50-degree day in Chicago, many students can be seen rushing into Harold Washington’s revolving doors to attend their early-morning classes. 

Such days can also have a reputation for being the city’s deadliest for South and Westside communities. As recent reports show, 2017 has seen a 25 percent increase in gun-related crimes throughout the city, compared to last year’s streak.

We got to speak to Zae Carter, an 18-year-old HWC undergraduate, who lives in one of the city’s most violent Southside neighborhood, Roseland. 

“To be honest, I got so many friends who’ve died, you know, that planned to do what I’m doing right now. I didn’t really think I was able to make it down here [school],” Carter said. 

Throughout his educational career, Carter has had a history with gangs growing up.  Losing close friends, he knew which path to take at a young age. 

“It either you involve yourself with the gangs, or you don’t, it’s as simple as that,” he said.

Like many other college students, Carter has daily pressures to complete his assignments on time, however, he is also consistently reminded of his environment in which he was raised in. 

“Getting jump, rob, or losing my life, mainly, are some of the fears growing up in the Southside. I literally got shot on my hand when I was 8-years-old. People just came by and started spraying, [while] I was just hooping,” he said as his scarred hand shook uncontrollably, a direct result of his wound.

Carter lives in Roseland and makes the commute to school as a full-time student to get his associates degree. He considers coming to school a blessing, while many others lose their life early on. 

“To be honest, you had to grow up at an early age. I used to do a lot of shit, and now, I consider every day a blessing,” he said. 

“It’s no joke out here man. You got babies dying. It’s crazy!”

Carter said he is dedicated to getting his associates and he dreams of becoming a sociologist.

He focuses on his school and considers it as a way out from the Southside. 

“I know that school can take me further. It’ll make me stronger and make me realize what I need to do to make it,” said Carter.

With a good start in his college career, he looks forward to completing his studies at Harold Washington College and wants his fellow students to strive as well. 

“Try to do right by your life. Don’t fall into the mix. Live life and stay in school,” he said

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