Elijah Calloway learned at Southland College Prep Charter High School's recent commencement ceremonies that he is the recipient of the 2014 Ronald Blackstone Memorial Scholarship. | Supplied photo by Charles Osgood
Updated: June 29, 2014 2:26AM
Imani Thornton and Elijah Calloway, both members of the first graduating class at Southland College Prep Charter High School in Richton Park, have been admitted to Princeton University and appointed to the U.S. Air Academy’s Prep School, respectively, according to a press release from the school.
“Performance, persistence and patience” is how college counselor Ron Anderson described the route they took to the prestigious institutions, the release said.
“Imani Thornton and Elijah Calloway focused on goals that some say could have been out of reach, but they each continued to perform academically and personally at very high levels, were offered scholarships to several top schools and finally prevailed in their quest to be admitted to major institutions of their choosing,” Anderson said in the release.
Thornton, 18, of Matteson, was offered scholarships to several institutions valued at more than $400,000, while Calloway, 17, also of Matteson, declined $276,000 in scholarships to other top institutions to accept the appointment to the Air Force Academy’s Prep School, a first step toward admission to the academy, the release said.
Both students are members of Southland’s “top of the class” group, each posting a 4.55-grade-point average, it said.
“Imani Thornton and Elijah Calloway and all the members of Southland’s first commencement class are extraordinary young people,” Southland College Prep CEO Blondean Davis said in the release. “Their receptivity to a rigorous, quality high school education that saw all 71 members of the class admitted to colleges and universities and earning a total of $7.6 million in scholarships is remarkable. Their tenacity in the pursuit of excellence and a well-balanced approach to living will stand them well in the future.”
Thornton was secretary for the school’s National Honor Society and its Spanish Club, and as part of her service in the National Honor Society, she took a leadership role in getting young people to make greater use of the Matteson Public Library, the release said.
Thornton was an active member of the school’s Interact Club, a Rotary International program whose members raised funds for food to be sent to Nigeria; and she was an active participant in a March of Dimes fundraising effort that benefited prenatal care, it said.
Thornton also ran the 400-meter event for the school’s track and field team and played the flute in the Ambassador Band, it said.
“Southland offered me an amazing opportunity, expanded my horizons and opened me up to believe just what my parents have always advocated to me and my sister, Maya, a Southland junior, that we can become whoever we wish to be if we work hard enough,” Thornton said in the release.
Thornton aspires to a career in journalism and possibly law someday, like her father, Byron, who together with her mother, Dona, are very supportive of her ambitions, she said in the release.
Calloway was an officer of the Southland National Honor Society chapter and played saxophone in the school’s band.
“Attending Southland gave me more than a solid academic experience. Southland molded me into a more holistic person and exposed me to diverse cultural and fine art experiences that I don’t believe any another high school could have offered,” he said in the release. “Many schools strive to provide students with the adequate skills needed to succeed in life, but I think Southland went over and beyond to ensure that we become positive contributors to society.”
“A slogan at Southland is, ‘Students today, leaders tomorrow.’ I really do believe that Southland prepared me and my classmates to be our nation’s future leaders,” Calloway said in the release.
During summers in high school, Calloway attended a six-week American Field Service student exchange program in Costa Rica, a legal camp at the John Marshall Law School, and an advertising and marketing program at the University of Illinois-Chicago.
The Air Force Academy Prep School is a 10-month program that typically leads to an appointment to the Air Force Academy. The process that led to the appointment to the prep school was a long one, according to Calloway.
“I originally began in the spring of my junior year applying directly to the academy. However, because of fierce competition, I was unable to receive a congressional nomination,” Calloway said in the release. “In researching alternatives, I learned about the possibility of an appointment to the USAFA Prep School and applied while continuing to concentrate all my effort toward other college options.”
Calloway said he first became interested in the Air Force Academy during a college tour to the Coast Guard Academy, and last summer was one of 25 high school seniors selected to attend a weeklong visit to the Air Force Academy.
“I have three older siblings who have had fine careers in the military,” he said in the release. “My sister, Jenae Calloway, has been in the U.S. Navy for 10 years; my brother, Eugene Calloway III, is completing U.S. Marine Corps basic training; and my brother, Jarrod Boston, served in the U.S. Navy for four years.
“As I arrived at Southland’s commencement exercises, I received an email from the U.S. Air Force Academy of my appointment to the Prep Academy. I look forward to joining my siblings in a U.S. military career.
“My parents, Sheilah and Eugene Calloway, motivate me to create opportunities for myself and perform at the highest possible level,” he said in the release.