A Q&A with Rachel Bonnor, Valedictorian, Hamilton HS
In March, CISM coordinated its annual Spring College Tour, which allows local high school students to travel to Washington D.C. expense-free to explore college campuses and much more. Eight Memphis seniors took part in this year’s trip which featured visits to Georgetown and Howard University, national museums, and historic and cultural landmarks across the nation’s capital. It was the first time ever on a plane for some of the students, so CISM partnered with MemPops in February to raise money to purchase new luggage so they were ready for their big trip.
Rachel Bonnor, a senior and the 2023 valedictorian at Hamilton High School was one of the selected students who went on the Spring College Tour. As part of the requirements for this special experience, Rachel had to attend multiple CISM events, complete job shadowing activities, submit reference letters and college acceptance letters, write an essay, and complete her FAFSA application. This is what she had to say about the unforgettable trip.
What made you want to apply for the spring college tour? I applied because it was a chance to go to a different coast and experience a different lifestyle and culture, which would ultimately influence my decision of where I would head post-secondary.
What “firsts” did you experience as a result of this trip? I experienced my first delayed flight, my first PWI college tour, and my first time seeing national monuments.
How did this experience support your future aspirations? This trip made me realize that I am a southern belle, and I want to stay with the culture that comes from being an African American in the South.
What new understandings did you gain as a result of this experience? I realize there are so many other cultures that are just as beautiful as mine.
What lasting impression or impact did this experience create for you? It inspired me to return home and interact with other cultures so we could come together to inspire change because equality is for all, and anything is better when you’re not alone.
Rachel has been a part of CISM’s College & Career Readiness program since 2020. Not only is she the valedictorian of her high school, she recently was awarded the prestigious Gates Scholarship, which is only given to 750 students out of more than 50,000 applicants. She said her CISM experience helped her achieve her goals by offering college tours and exposing her to opportunities that increased her confidence and world knowledge, like workshops and alumni panels. Rachel also said her relationship with her specialist, Wilecia Lane, was a game-changer because she personally assisted with transportation and connections to employment, in addition to being a consistent supporter in her corner from the day she joined the program. Though she had many opportunities to attend colleges across America, Rachel will be attending the University of Memphis in the fall because she loves her hometown and has a desire to make a difference in her own community.