CICS Student’s Smooth Ride

By: Aaron Pollack, Associate Director of CICS Ralph Ellison Charter High School

Tommy Griffin is a senior at CICS Ralph Ellison High School, a charter public school in Gresham. Knowing Tommy as I do and having witnessed his successes here, I know he’ll be successful when he graduates this June. A 16 year old senior, Tommy’s already been accepted to several of the dozen colleges he applied to. But Tommy is much more than a student–he’s an athlete, an avid biker, a historian, a network and an innovative entrepreneur. I sat down with him recently and he shared his story with me.

Tommy started at the public school in his neighborhood just a few blocks away from his house. But, recognizing its unsafe environment, he and his family chose to transfer to CICS Basil charter public elementary school. Tommy recalls that “once I got there, the environment, learning experiences, and students were night and day compared to my old school. It was a much more suitable learning environment for me.” From CICS Basil, Tommy moved seamlessly to CICS Ralph Ellison High School. The teachers at CICS Ellison built on the readiness foundation set at CICS Basil to facilitate an easy transition from 8th grade to freshman year.

In his first three years at CICS Ellison, he played football. “Those were the days”, Tommy said. “It was seriously fun.” Off the field and inside the classroom, he found an unexpected passion for the humanities. “I find the past more interesting than things going on currently,” Tommy says. His African American Literature and US History and teachers are not afraid to get down into the nitty gritty; they share their understanding with students before ultimately letting them interpret it themselves. He seems to have interpreted it well, as he’s earned high test scores across the board.

But beyond being a humanities student or a football player, Tommy is a creative and young man and this is the part of him we’re especially excited for as his future outside of CICS becomes clear. Always mechanically inclined, Tommy turned his interest in tinkering with beat up motorbikes into an full scale repair outfit once he outgrew his own bike. He researched how to tune the wheels, the engine, etc, always conscious of safety. While his family sums up Tommy’s high school years as “so many bikes”, he’s ready to ride into the future to study mechanical engineering or automotive technology at college. With Tommy’s creativity, ingenuity, and spirit, we can’t wait to see where he lands and we’re grateful to have been part of the ride.