Izaki Metropoulos is on his way to one of the most elite liberal arts colleges in the country – something he couldn’t have imagined when he dropped out of high school early in his sophomore year.
Born and raised on the north side of Chicago, Izaki attended a CPS high school his freshman year, but was often sick, had poor grades, and ultimately dropped out.
“I wasn’t sure what to do next. I was 16, and had no direction,” said Izaki.
His family supported his decisions, but always encouraged him to think about going back to school. He worked as a cashier and in sales for a few years, but what really got him through this tough time was his love for music. Izaki had played the violin since he was five years old, but when he was ten, he developed an interest in traditional Greek folk music. He joined a Greek dance group and taught himself the music by ear, working out pieces on the violin even if they were played by other instruments.
“It connected me to my culture and my community,” he said. But as time went on, he saw the friends he grew up with going on to top universities across the country and regretted that he wasn’t on the same path.
“I thought I could do more than work as a cashier,” he explained. “I wasn’t pursuing my academic interests, so I decided to go back to school.”
He earned his GED, then chose to attend Wright College because it was close to his home and had a great reputation. It was also affordable, and he thought that it would prepare him to transfer to a four-year university.
He started classes thinking that he wanted to study psychology, saying, “I was trying to figure myself out and learn what motivated me. I felt like a failure and was really examining myself.”
His path soon changed, however, after meeting a few “awesome professors;” namely Natasha Todorovich, his first English professor, and Dr. Michael Petersen, who became a friend and mentor.
“I found that English literature was a way to explore all these human experiences. It was so interesting to me how writers negotiate their experiences as humans. I also found I had a knack for it. Someone once told me to balance what you’re good at with what you like, so English was the right choice for me.”
While he was at Wright College, he became president of the Great Books Society, vice president of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society, and editor-in-chief of Wright’s Symposium Journal. Outside of school, he continues to be part of a band that tours the country playing traditional Greek music at public and private events.
Izaki is grateful for the guidance of Professor Petersen, who not only introduced him to a love of English literature, but helped him find universities that would be a good fit for his interests. To that end, Izaki learned about and applied to Williams College, not thinking he would get in. He did, then he got into Amherst. He was also selected as a semi-finalist for the prestigious nation-wide Jack Kent Cooke Transfer Scholarship and was a member of the Phi Theta Kappa All-Illinois Academic Team. He has chosen to attend Williams, where he received a full-ride scholarship to study literature. Ultimately, he plans to follow in his mentor’s footsteps and become a high school or college English teacher.
As for his experience at Wright College, Izaki says, “people associate community college with affordability and practicality. Not a lot of people see it as a place to cultivate intellectual interests or grow as a person. Wright really prepared me for a school like Williams. And I’m not alone – when I saw my friend Amanda Jiang graduate last year and get into Smith College, among others, I thought maybe I could do that, too. The professors here really cared about their students and helped me tailor my learning experience. I’m leaving with really valuable educational experience.”