Being the product of your environment is easy to do when that’s all you know.

But what if you don’t want to be like everyone else?

What if you want don’t want to be the stereotype?

That’s exactly what these seven young men did at National Collegiate Preparatory Public Charter High School in Washington DC, located in Ward 8.

Wednesday morning, Andre Ross Jr., Eliah Blakeney, Kairi Gardner, Kemari McClary, Elisha Goode, Shidear Poulson, Iselah Cephas, and Timen Mason, went against the norm when they announced where they would be accepting full scholarships to for their college education.

Senior Class Coordinator, Dr. Maurice Douglas said, “Our students come from the most economically challenged ward in the District of Columbia, where just coming to school and going home daily can be a life or death situation.”

Even with the struggles that these seniors may have faced outside of the classroom and off the field, they didn’t let it impact their education, and their future.

Senior Kairi Gardner not only received a full scholarship, but was also awarded the POSSE Scholarship, a four-year, full-tuition scholarship awarded to students with extraordinary academic and leadership potential that may be overlooked by the traditional college selection process.

He had some good advice to give to young students who may want to follow in his footsteps.

“Just believe you can do anything you put your mind to. It’s going to be hard. Life isn’t easy. There are times when people are doubting you. There are times when people will knock you down and push you. But, it’s all about how you retaliate, and how you ignore those who doubted you. Surround yourself with a group that you know has the same mindset as you, and focus in the classroom. Football won’t be there forever, even soccer, baseball, athletics won’t be there forever.”

Gardner shared that he plans to major in Mathematics at Sewanee: The University of the South, and hopes to one day be a Meteorologist.