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'I think coming back now I almost feel reborn' | CMSD graduate returns to Cleveland to share story of prevailing against the odds

Mark Nichols says he was expelled from high schools in Ashtabula and Columbus, but his life changed when a CMSD principal gave him a second chance.

CLEVELAND — Fifty young men from Atlanta’s Morehouse College recently traveled 13 hours on a bus from Georgia to be lights in the dark. Their goal? To illuminate a path forward for over eight hundred male high school students, mostly from the Cleveland Metropolitan School District.

The group desires to help others achieve a more equitable life through education. An evangelist and model of that mission is Mark Nichols, a 2019 CMSD graduate currently in his senior year at the private historically Black men’s liberal arts college.

“I think coming back now I almost feel reborn because it's like this isn't the same Mark that people use to know,” Nichols shares.

The 23-year-old says he was expelled twice from high schools in Ashtabula and Columbus due to disciplinary issues. He has ADHD and struggles with a speech impediment. However, the trajectory of his life changed when the principal at John Marshall School of Engineering gave him a chance.

“He was humble. He said that ‘you know I've made some mistakes,’ says John Marshall School of Engineering Principal Timothy Primus. “The fact that he accepted the responsibility and accountability for the things that he's done in the past, that was a big, big reason why I took a chance on Mark.”

From there, Nichols excelled.

He earned the “Say Yes Cleveland” Scholarship, paving the financial way for him to attend Morehouse College, majoring in Economics. He is a member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Incorporated, is the Student Government Association President, and as a graduation senior, he says he already landed a job.

“I'm graduating in May debt free, and I'll be starting at Ernst and Young and Parthenon,” Nichols says.

Nichols and fellow Morehouse senior Douglas Burnett, who is also a native of Northeast Ohio, teamed up to bring Morehouse’s Get on the Bus tour to Cleveland in conjunction with CMSD and Men of Color Shaping Academics.

“The opportunities are endless, and I think honestly that's what a lot of people in that gym need,” Nichols says. “They just need an opportunity.”

Nichols will be staying in Atlanta after graduation but says his long-term career goal is to become the Mayor of the City of Cleveland.

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