For the Faisons, Higher Achievement is a family legacy spanning two cities. Brandon is a second-generation scholar and new alumnus looking forward to a bright future in Baltimore. His mom, Charlene Faison, is a DC Metro alumna and current Mt. Royal mentor.
When Mrs. Faison saw the Higher Achievement table at Brandon’s 7th grade back-to-school night at Mt. Royal Middle School, she couldn’t believe what she was seeing. “I thought to myself, ‘No way can this be the same program I attended back in DC!,’” she remembers. After confirming that it was, in fact, the same program, Mrs. Faison signed Brandon up right away. “Brandon is a gifted and advanced learner, and I wanted him to have all the extra support and encouragement possible,” she says.
Brandon began thinking about high schools that very year in 7th grade. At first, he wasn’t sure where he wanted to go. With support from his school counselors and Higher Achievement, he attended several virtual open houses for top-ranked local high schools. Brandon’s self-proclaimed “addiction to tech” led him to apply to Baltimore Polytechnic Institute (“Poly”) and Digital Harbor High School, offering a STEM-focused curriculum, as well as Baltimore City College and Forest Park Senior High School.
Getting into his first choice — Poly — wouldn’t be easy. The highly sought-after school used Baltimore City’s composite score application process. The score included results from 7th grade, the first quarter of 8th grade, and standardized test scores, with the potential to increase the score through high marks in honors classes or advanced programs. Students interested in Poly usually needed to score significantly higher than the required minimum to be admitted. In 2021, the lowest accepted composite score was over 750 out of a possible 800.
Brandon didn’t let the challenge of competition stand in the way of the pursuit of his passion. At Mt. Royal, Brandon participated in the Ingenuity Project – something he would be able to continue if he attended Poly. The Ingenuity Project harnesses Baltimore’s science and mathematics community to prepare highly capable and motivated students to achieve at nationally competitive levels in STEM fields. Graduates of the Ingenuity Project are highly sought after by the most elite schools and colleges.
In March, Brandon received the news that he was accepted to Poly. Brandon was excited by the news, and already began thinking ahead; he recalls saying, “Alright, I got into Poly! What’s next?” He looks forward to Poly bringing him one step closer to his dream of one day working in cybersecurity.
For Mrs. Faison, Brandon’s success and passion brought her back to her own time at Higher Achievement. She recognized seeds for her own future planted during her time in program. “I earned several awards for writing during my time at Higher Achievement that I’ve kept all these years. Now that I hold a master’s degree in creative writing and have published my own book, I see how some of the ideas and talents that were encouraged in me during my time in Higher Achievement have come to fruition in my life as an adult,” reflects Mrs. Faison.
As a mentor and parent, she strove to share this same encouragement with her scholars. “I want to see young people growing and perfecting their talents and abilities,” she says. Mentoring enabled Mrs. Faison to give back and encourage scholars each week as they worked towards their personal goals. “Before my mom passed away last year, I was able to talk to her on the phone and tell her about Brandon’s participation and my mentoring at Higher Achievement,” says Mrs. Faison. “She was excited to hear that we were still a part of the program she signed me up for when I was Brandon’s age.”
Thanks to Mrs. Faison, their Higher Achievement family legacy won’t end with Brandon – it will live on through the all scholars whose futures she encouraged as a mentor.
Higher Achievement’s mentors are key to our scholars’ success, joining us each week to make a measurable and clear impact on the lives of young people. Learn more and apply today to partner with scholars as they pursue their ambitions.