Douglas Graves traveled across the country and across the world as he served in the U.S. Marine Corps for eight years, and is now working hard to make a difference in his own neighborhood.

From Chicago’s South Side, Douglas said he had a regular childhood – he worked hard in school and always had an after-school job growing up. After he graduated from Hyde Park Career Academy, he headed to Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana for a semester, but felt that school “just wasn’t for me.”

That’s when he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and spent the next eight years as an Aviation Operations Specialist. When his service was over, he returned to Chicago where his family still lived, and worked for an airlines for five years. When he was furloughed for the third time, he decided he needed to change careers and started working in retail, which he has done for the last ten years. All that time, he had coworkers, supervisors, family and friends all telling him that he could do more –and earn more–with an education.

In the fall of 2017, Douglas felt he was financially and emotionally ready to return to school get his college degree. He chose Olive-Harvey because it was affordable and it was a familiar fixture in the neighborhood. Although he was a full-time student who was also working full-time, he became an active member of the college community. He was a part of the Student Government Association, Student Veteran Association, and the Law in Society Administration group. Douglas used his experience to informally mentor other students, saying “I have guys on campus who know they can call me and I’m there for them.”

Douglas’ goal is to continue helping others, specifically working in corrections with youth. “I want to give them a mentor, someone to look up to. I grew up in a rough neighborhood, so I understand how the neighborhood works. I know what you have to sacrifice to get out of it, and I want them to know they can do it.”

He thinks that sometimes, young men can get a bad rap, and really just need some direction. “I had older guys looking out for me when I grew up – I feel like that’s missing in the neighborhood now. I want them to know that someone cares about their future,” he explained.

His mom, sister and grandmother have been incredibly supportive, cheering him on the whole way – and they were all present at Douglas’ graduation in May 2019, as he carried the Olive-Harvey College banner in front of administrators and faculty as they processed in at the beginning of the ceremony.

As he leaves Olive-Harvey with his associate degree in criminal justice and moves on to earn his bachelor’s degree in the same discipline at Chicago State, Douglas said, “I had an amazing experience at OHC, and I appreciate my instructors and the administration. I don’t think people understand the benefit of having Olive-Harvey right here in the neighborhood. I’m really going to miss my time here – I miss it already, and I just finished my finals yesterday!”

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