Rahim Hill is a newly enrolled student at Gary Middle College, an alternative high school that offers a second chance for people of all ages to go back to school and earn their diploma. At 19, Rahim is younger than most GMC students. But he reflects on his journey and realizations he’s made in the past like a much older man. “Parents tell us all the time, ‘stay in school, do this,’” Rahim notes. “But as teenagers, we look at them as being over-protective, and don’t realize that they went through the same thing. And that’s why they’re working hard, trying to do all this to help us. I understand that now. I learned.”

 

Rahim is an avid music enthusiast, and aspires to succeed in the music industry. “I make beats now, and I want to go to college for audio engineering,” Rahim explains. “I used to look at rappers, and want to be that guy, you understand. And things just became a constant circle of me trying to be that guy, from smoking marijuana to doing a lot of things that wasn’t me. I just wanted to be that type of person, be somebody I wasn’t. But I’m lucky, now that I have this program,” Rahim reflects. “Live and learn.”

Rahim dreams of attending Full Sail University, a Florida institution that offers campus and online degree programs designed for the world of entertainment and media. “I like the beat of the music,” Rahim says. “The beat captures people’s attention. People feel the song because of the beat. If it weren’t for the beat, the lyrics wouldn’t mean anything.”

Rahim currently attends classes at GMC to earn his high school degree. GMC is unique in that it provides a supportive, community forum for each student to move at their own individual pace through Odyssey, an online high school program. The school provides each student with a laptop at school, and teachers provide guidance as needed. Students must attend one of three sessions every school day – from 8am – 12pm, 12pm – 4pm, or 4pm – 8pm – and are permitted to attend as many sessions as they can. To round out their completely free education, GMC students have the opportunity to earn an online Associate’s Degree through Ivy Tech Community College, and can also take vocational classes at the Gary Career Center.

One of his teachers at GMC, Ms. Glenn, tells me how impressed she is with the breakneck pace Rahim is moving towards earning his high school diploma. He is also taking welding classes through GMC’s program at the Gary Career Center. “I’ve got my whole plan set up. I’m going to stick with the welding, because I like doing it, but I’m also going to use it as a ticket out of Gary. It’s going to pay for my college – it’s basically putting me on my feet. Welders get a lot of money. You can go anywhere in the world and know that you have a job.”

“I have big plans,” Rahim says. “A lot of people don’t get these wake-up calls, these second chances – most of them being locked up, or killed. I feel like I’m lucky. I really do. I want to do so many different things. When I was growing up, I wanted to be a tattoo artist, because I can sketch. I got that from my mom, she can sketch. And her mother, too. There are a lot of artists in my family. I want to be an actor, I want to be a comedian – there are just a bunch of things I want to do.” Rahim has lived and learned, and aspires to succeed at GMC and beyond.