Books & Bullets

A Harold Washington College Student's Story 

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 underrepresented communities.

Zae Carter, an 18-year- old Harold Washington College undergraduate, lives in Roseland, one of the city’s financially-challenged communities.

“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 while he waited for his next class to begin.

Carter has had run-ins with gangs throughout his academic career. As a result of losing close friends due to violence, he knew early on which path to take.

“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 the environment in which he was raised.

Zae Carter, an 18-year-old Herald Washington College student, shows his scared-hand where a bullet hit him when he was 8. Photo by Sebastián Hidalgo. Monday, Feb. 6, 2017.

Zae Carter, an 18-year-old Herald Washington College student, shows his scared-hand where a bullet hit him when he was 8. Photo by Sebastián Hidalgo. Monday, Feb. 6, 2017.

“Getting jump, rob, or losing my life, mainly, are some of the fears growing up on the south side. 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 scared hand shook uncontrollably, a direct result of his wound.

 

Carter currently lives in Roseland and makes the commute to school as a full-time student to acquire an Associates Degree. He considers coming to school a blessing, while many others lose their lives early on.

Dedicated to getting his associates degree and continue to pursue a higher education; Zae Carter has a dream to become a sociologist. He focuses on his education 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,” Carter said. 

With a good start in his college career, he said he looks forward to completing his studies at Herald 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.”

 

-Written and Photographed by Sebastián Hidalgo