For sisters Dominique Brown and Taylor Kerr, residents of East Garfield Park, graduating from City Colleges at the same time was only part of the celebration. While the duo was excited to earn their associate degrees together on May 23rd, they were thrilled to continue a longstanding tradition, becoming the fourth generation of women in their family to advance their education at one of the seven City Colleges of Chicago.
According to Taylor, the legacy began with their grandmother Gail, who started her City Colleges journey in 1973 by enrolling in courses at Malcolm X College. Taking inspiration from her daughter, Gail’s mother Florence – Dominique and Taylor’s great grandmother – decided to go back to school herself. She enrolled in high school equivalency courses at Malcolm X in 1975 in order to earn her high school diploma. The experience meant so much to Florence that she later became a facilitator for the program so she could help others who, like her, had been out of the classroom for years, earn their GEDs.
Next up was Dominique and Taylor’s mother Marjorie, who earned her degree from Kennedy-King in 2010, graduating with high honors and as a member of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. From KKC, she transferred to the University of Illinois at Chicago to earn her bachelor’s degree in nursing.
When it was her turn, Dominique – now 22 years old – continued the family legacy by starting at MXC shortly after high school. There, she discovered her passion for pre-school education, and in 2019, she started taking the majority of her courses at Harold Washington College. With the support of multiple scholarships, she was able to earn her degree tuition-free, while also earning a promotion to serve as a lead infant teacher at Concordia Place’s daycare center.
Though CCC may have seemed like the natural next step for Taylor after high school, the now 21-year-old initially bucked the trend by starting her college journey at a four-year university. However, after a year away from home, she wasn’t receiving the support she needed to succeed and returned to Chicago to finish up her general education credits at Malcolm X. Due to her strong GPA in high school, Taylor was able to take advantage of the Star Scholarship, calling the decision “one of the best choices I’ve ever made.”
Like her mom, Taylor joined PTK, eventually becoming the president of MXC’s chapter of the honor society. She even had one of the same professors as Marjorie – English Professor Corey Hall – and both mother and daughter will have student essays featured in the latest volume of Hall’s book, Expressions From Englewood. Now that she’s earned her associate degree, Taylor plans to transfer to Illinois State University in the fall as a pre-vet student, with the goal of one day working with farm animals and running her own animal clinic.
Based on their journey, City Colleges’ 2021 Commencement Ceremony was certainly a momentous – and emotional – occasion for the whole family. When the sisters graduated on May 23rd, Dominique explained that it was a testament to their resilience, especially after an extraordinarily difficult year, during which she lost both her best friend and stepfather.
That same sense of resilience has led Dominique and Taylor through several obstacles and moments of pain throughout their lives, including the loss of their two-year-old sister Brooklyn in 2009. Through grief, homelessness, and the anxieties of not being able to pay their bills, the family has leaned on each other and utilized resources from CCC to keep going, whether that support has come through COVID-related grants, food assistance from the Wellness Center, or the guidance of advisors and counselors.
“We’ve definitely been supported to the fullest by CCC, and we’re very grateful for it,” said Taylor.
They hope their story will inspire others to keep going as well – a goal that doesn’t seem far off. In fact, their older brother Eric, who attended several classes at City Colleges before jumping into the workforce, says that his sisters’ accomplishments have inspired him to consider heading back to school next year.
As Dominique and Taylor look forward to their next steps as a teacher and a future vet, it looks like the family’s CCC story may not be over just yet.