Hilliard Homes, a Chicago Housing project in the South Loop, was home to Shaconta Fox, her parents and four siblings for many years.

She recalls moving away many times, but whenever problems arose or money became tight, they always ended up back in the projects. During those times, she attended South Loop Elementary where she had the benefit of caring and concerned teachers.

“The teachers there were great. I remember hating every time we moved away from Hilliard Homes because those years I had to change schools. I was never able to make a connection with anybody when we got to these other schools.”

When Shaconta’s grandmother passed away while she was in the fifth grade, the apartment was given to her mother, and they remained there for the next three years.

After her elementary school graduation, the family was informed that Hilliard Homes was to be renovated and changed into single family homes. They were forced to move again. She enrolled in Lincoln Park High School just as her parents moved the family south. Now that she was older, she told her parents she wanted to stay at Lincoln Park.

“I had more of a say now, and I told them, ‘I will make the commute, but I don’t want to change schools again.'”

Her family would move again just two years later to Kedzie Avenue and Warren Boulevard. She graduated from Lincoln Park High School with honors in 2009, but not before leaving her mark on the community.

In grade school Fox took part in oratorical contests, making it to regional finals, and volunteered to be in a play for neighborhood kids. She has contributed countless hours of community service for the National Honors Society and helped Metropolitan Family Services, a neighborhood community center assisting underserved populations, to put on plays once she reached high school.

She credited the center for enabling her to spend time away from the building she lived in and for teaching her everything from sex education to how to be a lady.

She proudly recalls rounding up neighborhood girls to meet at her apartment.

“I went looking for girls age 11-14 and we would discuss poetry and art, just to give them something to do to get away from that bad environment outside for a little while.

I wanted to do that because that’s what Metropolitan had done for me.”

Life at Loyola University, on the city’s North Side, has been, for the most part uneventful.

“I had heard all these stories of ‘party, party party,'” she said, “but I’ve found that college life is what you make it.”

Attending a predominantly white institution, she was not sure what to expect but was ready for whatever might happen. “Had I gone to a Historically Black College,” she observed, “I feel I would have known what to expect, but I know my history. I know what the world can be like, so I was mentally ready for anything.”

Majoring in psychology with a minor in psychology of crime and justice, Fox made the Dean’s list last semester with a 3.6 grade point average. This was achieved, she says, through hard work and dedication, always giving all she can give.

She reflects back on her early years and believes her family is the poster for African-American families from the ghetto. “My mother is only 15 years older than me,” she notes, “but my brothers and sister and I are all doing well because we didn’t allow our environment to consume us.” Fox says her parents did a great job of instilling both common sense and book sense, then melding those with knowledge they were given at home.

Fox will graduate this spring and has already begun applying to prestigious institutions to continue her education in the forensic field. She had always wanted to be a lawyer and only recently decided upon this course of study.

“I still want to work hand in hand with the judicial system in some way,” she said, and hopes her career path will lead her to be called as a forensic expert for those put on trial as well as being able to counsel criminals and be an outlet for them.

Her long-term goals have her building a community center for the kids in underprivileged neighborhoods, a center where her “brothers and sisters” can be introduced to fine art and poetry and take part in everything from science to plays.

“I just want to give back. I have visions of grandeur, but I know I can do it.”