….And I believe he can.
Levi is 18 years old. In less than 18 days he will pack his belongings and head to Duke University where he will major in environmental science and policy, global health and biology. Look out Durham, N.C.: Levi Brice Edouna Obama is coming and he’s about to rock your world.
Ask him if he’s related to President Barack Obama and you’ll get his standard reply: “I really don’t even know. Maybe.”
Levi’s family emigrated from Cameroon in West Africa to Marietta, Ga. when he was 9 months old. His mother and father moved to the United States to make a better life for their family. Both parents work in the hotel industry and Levi has a 21-year-old sister.
Danice Wilson-Bates, a fellow church member who reads this blog, suggested I write about Levi and I’m glad she did. We need to hear more about ambitious and idealistic young people. In fact, we can’t tell their stories enough. So much can be learned from their optimism, energy and passions.
Here’s what Danice said about Levi: “I wanted to share a story about a young man that has been a part of my youth organization… He made valedictorian this year at Osborne High. His SATs were remarkable (Levi scored a 2030 out of 2400), a believer of the most high, runs track, was class president and is one of the most humble young men you’ll ever meet.”
At Osborne High School in south Cobb County, Levi was best known for his work as president of the school’s environmental action team. The group of about 21 students recycled every week at school, in local parks and other places. They held fundraisers and purchased a solar panel for their school.
For as long as he can remember, Levi has been fascinated with science. “[As a child] I loved looking at all the science books my parents brought home. I knew if we didn’t change our ways we’d be doomed… We only have one earth.”
Students at Osborne were curious and supportive of the club’s efforts and often helped. “So many kids were ignorant to the fact of what they do and how it can affect the environment,” he said. “At first it was like, ‘What’s going on?’ Then they got accustomed to it.”
The group used posters to get the message out and their principal allowed them to speak during the morning announcements. Every Thursday, they’d get out the recycling bins. If anyone asked what they were doing, they’d tell them: “We’re saving the world.”
In his valedictory speech, Levi talked about relationships and how important it is to stay connected to all people. “Make a brotherhood or sisterhood with whoever you meet in life; we’re in this thing together.”
Levi gave one last thank you to everyone who helped him, including teachers, administrators and classmates. “Too many people try to make life a one man story,” he said. “It takes a village to raise people, not just children.”
He earned several college scholarships and saved the money he got for graduation gifts and his job at a pizza place. As a result, he says he’ll only have to borrow about $2,000 for school.
His greatest inspiration? Jesus Christ. “I was born a Christian,” he said. “When I made the conscious decision to practice it and make it an essential part of me, I became a lot more comfortable in what I believed in.
“It helped me with people. So often people are used to the outdated, ‘eye for an eye,’ thing. Taking the whole higher road, that’s so much harder.”
He also credits a former girlfriend who is now his best friend. “She changed me so much. She turned me from someone who saw people for their worst, to understanding where people come from and never judging them. She challenges and pushes me to be a better person and never settles for anything less than my best.”
Levi is especially thankful for the great relationships he has with his mother, and the women he calls his surrogate moms, including Danice Wilson-Bates.
Levi can’t wait to immerse himself in a community of great thinkers and meet people from all walks of life. “It’s going to be fantastic just to be around all these people.”
It’s hard not to be excited for Levi and all the other idealistic freshmen beginning college in the next few weeks.
Like Levi, many of them want to save the world. I believe they can.