Central High alumni overcomes obstacles to graduate from Harvard - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Central High alumni overcomes obstacles to graduate from Harvard

 

25-year-old Harrel Conner is studying to pass the New York Bar exam...

This past weekend, friends and family gathered to celebrate his graduation from Harvard University and from Columbia Law School.

He came from humble beginnings: a single parent family in inner city Memphis; by first grade he was falling seriously behind other children.

"I was the kid who didn't get it... Who couldn't tie my shoes or ride a bike... Trouble reading and writing.. In many ways, I was the kid from Orange Mound... I was the kid who wasn't supposed to make it," said Harvard graduate Harold Conner.

His teacher even suggested he be placed in special education, but his mother wouldn't accept it.

"I went out and bought the set of books that he was reading from, and I taught him how to read.. He went from the bottom to the top.. Honor roll.. And really the rest is history," said Corene Patterson, Harold's mother.

By third grade he was making straight "A"s, so his mother wrote a letter to WDIA radio and, after reading the letter on the air, DJ Bobby O'Jay spoke the words that would give a young boy a big dream.

"At the end of reading this letter, he said... Look out Harvard, here comes Harrel... And I asked mom... What's Harvard? And she said, a school for really smart kids, and I made up my mind that day, at age 8... I said, I think I'm going there," said Conner.

And though it wasn't easy, everything Conner ever dreamed about is now within his reach.

"Unlike other people, I didn't have it spelled out for me... I didn't have parents that had been there, scholarships, or the ability to pay for it... But I had a mother who was dedicated... And I had drive," said Conner.

Harrel says during his senior year at Central High his classmates ridiculed him for thinking that he could actually get into Harvard.

He says it only motivated him to work that much harder.

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