We are so fortunate to meet a lot of truly incredible families through our work at Rockford Area Habitat for Humanity. Within these families are some remarkable young people whom we have the honor to watch grow up in their homes. They are undoubtedly bright lights for our future.
One of these bright lights is D’Juan who, as a high school student, helped his mom and younger brother rehab the house they ultimately bought and moved into on N. Winnebago Street.
Before they moved, D’Juan was attending East High School. It was there that he was introduced to engineering when he happened to take a class. He says it wasn’t even a career field that was on his radar until then, and it opened a door into a whole new world.
His love for the field deepened when they moved into their new home and he transferred to Guilford High School. It was there that D’Juan met someone he identifies as an extremely important mentor in his life: Craig Corcoran, the engineering teacher. “Mr. Corcoran really helped me blossom in engineering, and he encouraged me to never stop going for my dream,” says D’Juan.
And that dream isn’t simply to go into engineering. D’Juan wants to revolutionize the field of Biomechatronics or, put more simply, bionic prosthetics.
Bionic prosthetics use high-tech engineering to integrate prosthetics into the body and even the mind. D’Juan was already very interested in engineering when he suffered a serious ACL tear. He started thinking about making prosthetics at the ligament level and about the way that advanced prosthetics have an important role to play in restoring basic quality of life for some people.
In 2005, one of Habitat’s founders, Ed McKaskey and his wife Kathy, started a scholarship fund at the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois specifically to help Habitat homeowners and their dependents fund their college education. D’Juan applied for and received this scholarship last year to help him launch his college education at Tennessee State, where he declared a major in Mechanical Engineering. After his four years of undergraduate studies, he plans to do two more years of graduate school in specialized Bio-Mechanical Engineering.
Besides crediting Mr. Corcoran for his educational achievements, D’Juan credits his mom, Tricia. D’Juan describes his mom as “an inspiration” to him, and he says that she always encouraged him to explore his dreams. She also helped him understand the value of an education and hard work. D’Juan fondly remembers how joyful and excited they were just a few years ago when they rehabbed and bought their house. He said the house immediately felt different than renting a place, and it is already full of happy memories. D’Juan is proud of what his mom accomplished with their house, and he says that she is proud of him too as he pursues his education with such conviction.
“Education is my tool. It can land me anywhere. It advances the world, and I want to use my education to make this world better.”
As for his scholarship from Rockford Area Habitat for Humanity, D’Juan says that he is forever thankful to the people who bet on him– but if we’re gambling, we’re willing to bet that his gratitude for Habitat, as immense as it may be, is no larger than our hope and admiration for him.
The infographic below gives a snapshot of the impacts that the scholarship program has had on people like D’Juan. All of these highlights are specific to scholarship recipients connected to Rockford Area Habitat for Humanity.