After a turbulent freshman year at my neighborhood public high school, prison-like with metal detectors, armed guards, and gang violence, my transfer to Mercy Vocational High School was little short of a miracle. My mother scraped together what little she had, and with the help of generous Mercy donors, she was spared the crippling burdens of unmanageable tuition.
My sophomore year was not an easy one. The identity that I had assumed in public school manifested itself at Mercy. I received various discipline infractions and faced expulsion which was a wake-up call: Mercy provides a safe space to build on faith and discipline!
During my final two years, I had a significant turnaround. Mr. John Hillman’s English class disciplined my ability to read and write in an advanced analytical fashion. Sister Maria Madonna’s theology class reinforced the foundations of my faith, and Ms. Catherine Glatts’ business shop prepared me for a professional environment and she herself acted as my moral compass..
The most important opportunity afforded me was the opportunity to participate in the co-op program. Managing a part-time job with academic study is the hallmark of Mercy’s career and technical education training. When I was forced into a routine of rewards and responsibilities, I realized that the faith and discipline I had honed at Mercy could serve me throughout the rest of my life.
After Mercy, I attended Penn State University where I was a tutor for both college and middle school students, a Ronald McNair Research Fellow, and a member of the Schreyer Honors College. I wrote an award-winning senior honors thesis, graduating from Penn State in 2007. I then entered a joint History M.A./Ph.D. program at the University of Chicago. I earned my M.A. in 2008 and am currently working on my doctoral dissertation.
When I reflect back, I always appreciate that the faith and discipline needed for this long journey began at Mercy.
Saalim Abdul Carter
Class of 2003