Thessalonika Arzu-Embry, who lives on the Great Lakes Naval Base, will be graduating in August from Chicago State University with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology. Thessalonika started college at the age of 11 at the College of Lake County.
Thessalonika wakes up early with her mother, Wonder Embry, and makes the long commute from home to her college classes. Not one to let time go to waste, on the way to school, Thessalonika and her mother study theory and talk about homework assignments.
Thessalonika dedicates all of her hard work to her mother, whom she says is her motivation.
“My mother is a strong inspiration to my success. She is a veteran of the United States Navy, and when she finished her tour, she home-schooled my brother and me.”
Her proud mom says she was just doing the right thing for her children.
“Parents are the most influential force in their own children’s lives, and they have the power to influence them to do good and to go forward,” she says.
Thessalonika was home-schooled until she was eight and received the equivalent of a high school diploma. Passing an entrance exam, she got into the College of Lake County and enrolled to study psychology. She currently carries a 3.9 GPA and is a member of the College of Lake County Honors program and actually enjoys studying — unlike many of her peers.
After she graduates, Thessalonika plans to continue with a graduate program for clinical psychology at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, a private college in North Chicago. Or…she’ll attend Stanford University.
Thessalonika says she chose clinical psychology because of her desire to help others.
“When I began to think about a profession, I chose one where I could make an impact.”
We wish this future doctor all the success in the world!
By Dr. Tyra Seldon
As debates about Jay-Z, Don Lemon and Black leadership intensify, I am reminded of the life story of Oseola McCarty. McCarty was a washerwoman in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. She quit school in the sixth grade to care for an ailing aunt, but she was wiser than most of the people who I know.
McCarty did not own a car; she had very few material luxuries and by most accounts, she lived frugally. For several decades, she saved her money. She kept saving and saving. In 1995, the world got a glimpse of just how remarkable she was. She gave the gift that keeps on giving: education.
With the money that she saved, she endowed over $150,000 in scholarships for African American students at the University of Southern Mississippi. The scholarships, still in existence today, are awarded to students who otherwise would not be able to afford college. She immediately became a local and national star; yet through it all, she maintained her humility, dignity and grace.
McCarty used the little that she had to ensure that others could and would have more. Her legacy isn’t tied to the honorary doctorate that she received in 1996 from Harvard University or the Presidential Citizens Medal bestowed upon her by President Bill Clinton. Her legacy is intricately tied to the sacrifices that she made for others. Although she died in 1999, her story is still timely and relevant today.
As we go back and forth pontificating and taking our corners, let’s not forget who our real models and leaders are. They are in our communities, neighborhoods and families. Who needs someone else to tell us how to live, how to dress and how to think?
Oseola McCarty was an ordinary woman who used her gifts and graces to do something extraordinary.
A true role model, Osceola McCarty lived by doing. Indeed, her presence was a gift to us all.