Tipping Point: Englewood teen beats bad odds, maintains road to - FOX 32 News Chicago

Tipping Point: From the streets to valedictorian, teen beats all odds to succeed

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

The walk to and from school and church wasn't always pretty---or perfect. Liquor bottles, garbage and cigarette butts line Deonte Tanner's route and a boarded up house is the first thing Deonte sees when he leaves home every day. It makes him want more for himself and others.

"I'm definitely not a product of my environment," Tanner says. "Everybody looks at Englewood as its disgusting---a savage neighborhood--and for the most part it's true."

"If I'm able to run a health center or hope center then that's more kids that I can possibly impact and possibly change," he tells FOX 32. "You don't have to be an athlete or a drug dealer to make it out of this neighborhood. Long as you got the will and the hope and the belief in yourself then you can do it."

Hopes and dreams have turned into nightmares for many 18 and 19 year old black men, growing up in Englewood. Gang and gun violence have turned this area into one of the toughest neighborhoods on Chicago's South Side.

Over the past year, more than two dozen current and former students from Harper High School were killed. First Lady Michelle Obama came to Chicago to discuss the violence and give Deonte and his classmates hope.

Instead of being tough on the streets, Deonte took that energy to the classroom. He graduated as valedictorian of his class in June from Harper High School and earned a four year academic scholarship to Marquette University in Wisconsin. Recently, Deonte got a call from the Bill Gates Foundation to congratulate him.

"Gates met my financial needs for school. Paid for me to get my doctorate degree for free, so I'm definitely blessed," Tanner believes.

Deonte Tanner considers himself just another boy in the ‘hood. The big difference, he says, is that he turned everything around into something to motivate him.

"Not everybody in Englewood are disgusting and savages with no life and no hope," says Tanner. "And I'm showing people that there's a difference."

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