Graduates react as President Barack Obama delivers remarks during the commencement ceremony at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, May 19, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Our last child, Matthew, completed his last semester at California Polytechnic State University (Calpoly) this past March 2016. He is our fifth child, including my nephew Rason, to earn his bachelor’s degree. After he informed my wife and I that he completed his studies, he said, “You and mom should be hailed as community heroes because we had five black males to graduate from college from the same household in Austin.”

My response surprised him. “Graduating five black men from college is not unusual,” I told him. “Why should it be unusual? Is it unusual in Oak Park?”

In our household we expected all of our children to be successful in whatever endeavor they took on. We made the necessary time and financial sacrifices to put our sons and nephew in the position to reach their fullest potential. We established the culture of high expectations in our household. We imparted to our children that academic success equals economic prosperity.

Most importantly, we explained to our children that academic achievement had nothing to do with someone being genetically smarter; it’s about hard work and exposure.

Although our children were blessed with a stable household, my nephew Trayvon Truss (who I did not raise), was a 2015 Gates Scholarship winner. He graduated from Corliss High School and is now a B student at his dream school, Morehouse College in Atlanta.

He did not let homelessness, his classification as a special needs student and poverty stop him. He gave himself a goal and a dream. He surrounded himself with positive people. His teachers at Corliss High School became his support system. He channeled all the negativity in his life into positive energy that fueled his hard work. If he did not understand a subject, he read and studied that subject over and over until he understood it.

My wife and I are very proud that we established a culture to motivate our children to pursue their post-secondary academic aspirations. We also acknowledge the hard work Chicago Public Schools teachers put into partnering with us to mold our children.

We are not the Huxtable family from “The Cosby Show,” although the show does reflect real successful black families. We had, and still have, challenges just like other families. We are not perfect.

Our family accomplishments exist, because we would not let our children succumb to the “bigotry of low expectations.” We are proud of what our children and nephews accomplished. It was all about hard work and the culture of high expectations — not magic.  

— Dwayne Truss, Austin

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