Originally from Detroit, Michigan, Durel Crosby just graduated from Harold Washington College, but neither Detroit nor Chicago are in his near future. He’s on his way to New Haven, Connecticut and Yale University where he starts classes this fall.

Durel went to a four-year university right after high school, but in his own words, he “wasn’t ready for college and I dropped out.”

With ten years of work experience as a pharmacy assistant and a nationally recognized pharmacy technician certification under his belt, Durel didn’t have trouble finding a job when he decided to move to Chicago because he loved the city.

He worked for a few years, but realized in 2015 that he had no savings, a bad credit score, and had to live with a roommate. “I had been coasting through life, I hadn’t been ambitious about career advancement, and had been working the same job for a long time. I was motivated to put myself in a better position,” he said. “Plus, when I dropped out of college, I promised my grandmother I would go back,” he added.

He started working at night in restaurants while he worked at the pharmacy during the day in what basically amounted to two full-time jobs—all in order to save money for tuition. He chose Harold Washington College because it would be an easy commute from his Logan Square neighborhood, but his time there “changed the whole trajectory of my life,” he said.

While working two jobs, Durel still found time to be the treasurer of the STEM Club and a math and science tutor while he focused on getting his GPA back up to where he wanted it to be. He also found mentors in science faculty members Dr. Raymond Tse and Dr. Barra Saraj.

During his last semester at Harold Washington, Durel took the national pharmacy school admissions test (PCAT) and scored in the top 2% of the country. Once he graduated, he decided to write a book, 21 Days to Good Grades: A Modern Guide to College Math and Science, to share everything he knew about math and science with students who are where he once was—convinced that calculus is impossible.

“Before I got to Harold Washington College, I was working a job I didn’t love as a college drop out with very low confidence in math and science. Now I’m going to Yale University. I can’t say enough good things about the resources available and the instructors I took classes with at City Colleges,” Durel said.

Ultimately, Durel has decided to change direction and study economics when he gets to Yale in the fall where he will start as a junior. His academic goal is to learn about ways to help people in underserved communities like the one he grew up in to “reach more prosperous outcomes.” He saw first-hand how economic situations can lead to violence or incarceration, and he wants to help change that.

His advice to others is simply this: don’t be afraid to pursue your goals—and he is truly leading by example.

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