Malique Bodie moved around a lot growing up, but he said he always felt connected to East Garfield Park. His family was the first black family to own a house on their block; it’s the same neighborhood where they own two homes now. It’s where Malique found his passion for politics and digital media. It’s the neighborhood where his grandmother lives, one of his favorite people.

As he prepared for his first year of college at Brown University, Malique said he recognized he would have to leave his community of support and risk feeling uncomfortable as he adjusted to the new setting. But, he said having his community’s support will help him on this journey.

“I consider myself a product of my environment,” he said. “I wouldn’t be who I am today if it weren’t for the people that helped build me up and raise me. I’ve learned so much from the people in my neighborhood, and I’m happy that my family has strong roots in this community.”

As a participant in Breakthrough’s film club in 2016, Malique helped produce 40 Blocks, an East Garfield Park oral history project in collaboration with the Chicago History Museum. Malique said he enjoyed learning more about the history of his community, especially during Martin Luther King’s visits during the civil rights era.

“Working on the film was such a great experience,” he said. “Hearing and learning about the community from long-time residents was really cool. And, I felt like learning about MLK and his time in East Garfield Park really meant a lot to me.”

Senior Director of the Breakthrough Youth Network Dr. Marcie Curry noted that Malique was an exceptional student in film club and his leadership was instrumental in many of the club’s projects.

“Since we first met Malique it was clear he had high expectations for himself and was a dedicated student. His leadership in the Breakthrough film club was crucial in the completion of the ‘Forty Blocks’ film,” she said. “I’ll never forget his poise and confidence as he spoke in front of a large crowd at the documentary release event. Of course, we are thrilled that he has taken his talents to Brown University and know that his future is bright!”

This August, Malique was one of 57 students celebrated at Breakthrough’s annual Trunk Party. At this community-wide event, friends and family of local scholars like Malique are invited to celebrate students’ accomplishments. These students have been accepted into universities like the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and DePaul University, with many pursuing STEM-related degrees. At the Trunk Party, the college-bound students received words of encouragement and shopped for donated items like toiletries, school supplies, and linens to outfit their dorms.  

Though it’s just been a few weeks since he moved to college, Malique is already feeling the stress of being away from his loved ones. But he says he is constantly reminded just how supported he is through small acts of kindness from people back home and phone calls from family.

“In terms of community support, I’ve experienced support from both individuals and organizations like Breakthrough via advice, trunk parties, and just affirmations and knowing the community is proud of me.”