Keeping up with his coursework during the day was as hard as the floors he slept on at night. Raysean Lockhart was without a place he could call his own while he attended Broward College, couch-surfing from one home to another, always looking over his shoulder, worried that he had shifted the weight of his world to the back of the friend or relative kind enough to give him a place to stay.

The good thing is that for enough of the day, Raysean could immerse himself in class, safe from the neighborhood crime, drugs, and violence that cast a shadow on his college aspirations.

“I was always worrying about having to study in the dark or under a streetlight when the electric bill had not been paid,” said Raysean, recalling some of the “small obstacles” he faced on the way toward earning an associate degree at Broward College.

Raysean LockhartFor his sake, the future is no longer dim. Sitting in an office at Broward College, dressed in a suit and tie he wears to his part-time job at the law firm Cohen & McMullen, P.A., in Fort Lauderdale, Raysean was eager to begin his next chapter in life after graduating from the University of South Florida with a bachelor’s degree in the interdisciplinary Social Sciences.

Safe Place on Campus

Olivia Sarson remembers the beginning of his journey fondly. When they first crossed paths, Sarson was working in enrollment services alongside Taura Parker, who is Raysean’s aunt. Parker would bring her nephew with her to campus to get a glimpse of college life. Until then, Raysean had been witness to “normal things” growing up in Washington Park, like stabbings, shootings and dead-end jobs.

“If you grow up rough, you’ve got to assess where you’re at and where you are going — and is it a safe place,” said Sarson, who currently directs “Get REAL” at Broward College, a scholarship program for students from challenging backgrounds. “He was literally here every day, and we welcomed him. He had that smile that would make you want to do as much as you can for him.”

Without a scholarship or award in hand, often that meant feeding more than his hunger to learn.

“He was very hungry and would come by my office for food,” said Claudia Sahagun, a professor of Spanish at Broward College. “His life was hard, and the odds were definitely not in his favor, but he was a bright kid who brought lots of resilience to our class.”

Surrounded by Great People

Broward UP organizers intend to send Raysean into the community to spread the word about scholarships, Pell grants and all the opportunities that can make college a doable proposition for students with backgrounds like his.

“Everything I’ve attained is due to the great people God put into my life,” said Raysean, who has dreams of attending Harvard Law School and becoming an advocate for social justice, perhaps, in Washington Park, where many kids are known for all the wrong things. “I want to share everything that I’ve endured to help those who aren’t able to help themselves: you may be going through some hard times, but don’t give up.”

If you are dedicated to promoting opportunity and inspiring residents of Broward County to achieve their highest potential, Broward UP™ is a countywide movement for you to get behind. Here’s how you can partner.