Lawrence Hemphill grew up in poverty on Indianapolis' south side. His home life was unstable with both of his parents drifting in and out of prison. School meant little to him, and college seemed to be an unattainable dream.
In 2007, when he was a junior at Emmerich Manual High School, Hemphill believed he would become a drug dealer like his father. But that summer, he attended a four-day workshop hosted by College Summit, an initiative supported by The Mind Trust that works to increase the number of low-income students attending college by fostering a college-going culture in high schools and helping students to navigate the college application process.
The experience changed Hemphill's course. He connected with a College Summit staff member, Darin Kenley, who had a background similar to his and had received a master's degree from Harvard University. Kenley convinced Hemphill he also could attend college. "I thought, 'If he can do this, then I should be able to do this,'" Hemphill said. "It gave me a view I had not seen so far."
During his senior year at Manual, Hemphill volunteered to participate in College Summit workshops. He graduated and went on to complete a two-year degree from Ivy Tech Community College. He now studies communications and philosophy at IUPUI, where he was selected as one of the school's top 100 students. He aspires to become a lawyer and run for political office after he graduates. And he remains involved in College Summit.
Starting in 2011, Hemphill took the lead on an effort to help College Summit alumni stay connected on campus by starting College Summit clubs at the Indiana schools where they have a strong presence. J.T. Ferguson, executive director of College Summit Indiana, said he sees endless possibilities for Hemphill in the future.
"I don't just think he'll graduate college and complete law school," Ferguson said. " I think one day he'll be mayor."