Over the past year, KIPP Sunnyside High School (KSHS) junior Cedric Garrett has established a mentoring relationship with KIPP Executive Board Member Shawn Raymond.
Having first met Shawn last October while giving him a tour of the KIPP Sunnyside campus, Cedric recalls Shawn asking him what college he was interested in attending.
“I said UT,” Cedric noted. “(Shawn) was an alumnus of UT Law School. Right then, we clicked. We just kept in contact from that day forward.”
Following the tour, Shawn was a guest speaker in Cedric’s student leadership class and delivered a memorable PowerPoint presentation on “Twerking.”
“The idea was to try and have a catch phrase,” Shawn said, “have an older guy come into the school and say, look I owe all of my success to Twerking. It caught the kids’ attention.” Shawn defined TWERK as Trailblaze, Work hard, Engage, Reflect, Know yourself.
Days after his presentation, Cedric wrote Shawn a thank you note. In the note, he made sure to include his school basketball game schedule.
Weeks later, Shawn and his sons were in attendance at a basketball game cheering on Cedric in a KSHS win over KIPP Houston High School.
“He brought his two sons, so I had to play well,” Cedric said.
Shawn checked in with Cedric a few times during the spring semester and once or twice during the summer.
It was at that point, he came up with an idea.
Cedric had the pleasure of meeting Arthur Johnson, University of Texas Executive Senior Associate Athletics Director. The two are pictured here speaking inside Darrell K Royal–Texas Memorial Stadium.
Involved in a mentoring program at the University of Texas Law School, Shawn travels to Austin every four to six weeks to meet with first-year African-American law students. The trips consist of dinner, as well as discussions of challenges, anxieties, and hopes for students.
“I know Cedric had said he had never been to UT before,” Shawn said. “Since I was going up there, I just extended the invitation to him.”
With approval from his mother and teachers, Shawn picked up Cedric from KSHS on October 13 and the two made the 180-mile trek to Austin.
“I didn’t know the full agenda during the road trip,” Cedric said. “I think he left it as a surprise, so I was excited when I got there.”
Once they arrived on campus, Cedric was introduced to Ward Farnsworth, Dean of The University of Texas School of Law. He later visited the undergraduate student advising office, took a tour of campus led by a current student, and watched the Longhorns football team practice from the 50-yard line inside Darrell K Royal–Texas Memorial Stadium.
The day concluded with dinner with the first-year African-American law students.
“That was the whole purpose of the trip,” KSHS student leadership teacher and counselor Malene Dixon said. “(Shawn) figured Cedric could come and hear their stories of how they got to UT Law School, just make a different sort of connection.”
While the day proved to be unforgettable for Cedric, it also was special for Shawn.
“I think one of the important aspects, at least on my end, was making sure that Cedric got to experience this day where he was able to exercise a level of independence and curiosity and inquiry that I didn’t want to be interfering with it,” Shawn said.
Cedric didn’t feel interfered with. Instead, he felt appreciative.
“(Shawn) wasn’t just trying to tell me ‘go to UT, go to UT,’” Cedric said. “He actually told me if I wanted to go to a different school he wouldn’t be upset. That was really cool.”
One week after returning from Austin, Cedric received an unexpected surprise at school when Mike Feinberg presented a package to him.
Learning that Cedric didn’t have access to a computer at home, Shawn reached out to Trey Peacock, one of his law partners. Knowledgeable about IT and computers, Trey managed to resolve the issue.
“Trey did an incredibly generous thing by making this computer available for Cedric,” Shawn said. “Cedric now doesn’t have to write his AP English papers by hand!”
Cedric visited the University of Texas campus on October 13. He hopes to be a Longhorn student in the future.
Still a junior, it remains to be determined where Cedric will ultimately attend college. Yet he clearly has potential as a future Longhorn, and it’s been recognized.
“I think he’s the kind of person anyone would support,” Shawn said. “I was fortunate enough to be connected with him, and I think it’s what KIPP is all about.”