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Alabama State Freshman lost both parents; defies the odds

ASU's President Quinton T. Ross, Jr. (left) shakes hands with incoming freshman Ivry Hall of Chicago's Southside. (David Campbell/ASU)
By Kenneth Mullinax
Alabama State University Media Relations

ASU President Ross (center) with Ivry Hall (left) and Cinque Cullar, ASU alumnus who mentored Hall in Chicago. (David Campbell/ASU)

Ivry Hall has overcome the deaths of both of his parents, escaped the violence of intercity gangs and conquered other incredible obstacles in his life to graduate high school as a valedictorian.

But that didn’t stop the 18 year-old, who grew up on Chicago’s Southside, from becoming one of more than 1,000 freshmen who enrolled in Alabama State University for the 2018-19 academic year.

“There is so much more than great grades about Ivry Hall that makes him perfect for ASU and inspires people to want to help him attain greatness,” said Cinque Cullar, an ASU alumnus and Chicago resident, who founded ASU’s acclaimed Tribe of Judah singers 20 years ago.

Both of the incoming freshman’s parents had died due to illnesses by the time Hall was just 16 years-old. On top of that, his neighborhood in the Inglewood section of Chicago is a hotbed of social unrest. It consistently ranks as one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in a city known for its high murder rate and gang violence.

But thanks to Cullar’s caring mentorship and the quick action of ASU’s Admissions and Recruitment staff, Hall is now a freshman on scholarship at ASU.

“I’ve only been in Montgomery for a few days and I already feel like I have found a home down here at ASU,” said Hall, who hopes to major in business so he can help other people the same way that he’s been helped by Cullar and his home church of St. Sabina.

“I have never believed in giving up, and failure is not an option,” said Hall, who is a former dropout who managed to turn his life around academically before graduating.

Cullar said that he noticed this gifted high school student while serving as the director of a program for at-risk students sponsored by Chicago’s St. Sabina Catholic Church.

“This young man had no real college plans despite the fact that he was the valedictorian of his senior class at Tilden High School,” Cullar said.

He was impressed with Hall because the young man had a fighting spirit that went far beyond the boxing program sponsored by St. Sabina, a church known as one of America’s most active “social conscious” Catholic parishes. Father Michael Pfleger serves as the pastor at St. Sabina.

“There was never a pity party from Ivry,” Pfleger said by phone from Chicago. “Ivry is a young brother who wants the best for himself and for others, too.”

Pfleger said that despite life dealing him a hard hand to play, Hall excelled at all that he did.

Both Cullar and Pfleger said that Hall never missed one day of high school despite an almost two-hour commute each way by both subway and bus from his cousins’ home in Harvey, Illinois, where he moved after the death of both parents.

Hall not only made excellent grades as a student at Tilden High, he also had a perfect church attendance record at St. Sabina. A talented athlete, Hall boxed competitively as part of St. Sabina’s after-school program for at-risk youth and then traveled back to his cousins’ home in Harvey to do his homework each night – repeating that rigorous schedule each day with “a smile and a great attitude.”

Alumni Can Make The Difference

Cullar said he was glad to help Hall choose ASU.

“When I asked him about his college plans, he just shrugged his shoulders and said he wasn’t sure,” said Cullar. “I told him that I knew of a school that would both educate him and provide him with a family-like atmosphere, and he was all for it,” he added.

Cullar contacted ASU’s Office of Admissions, where the application was turned around in one day, granting Hall admission to one of America’s oldest Historically Black Colleges or Universities (HBCUs).

“We were greatly impressed with Ivry’s application, his great grades in high school and his incredible drive that was evident in all he did despite the hardships placed upon him…so he was quickly admitted as a member of our freshman class,” said Freddie Williams, Jr., ASU’s director of Admissions and Recruitment.

ASU was so impressed with Hall that the University awarded him a Trust for Educational Excellence Scholarship, which is worth more than $8,000. Hall also received a $10,000 scholarship from a charitable program in Chicago associated with St. Sabina.

Williams said that by having an active and caring alumnus advising Hall, the University was able to admit another worthy student.

“Having an alumnus from the Chicago area who is actively involved in the recruitment of students for our University allows us to gain the needed insight and pipeline of students that we need to thrive as a school. We encourage all alumni to recruit students to ASU,” Williams said.

Williams said that the University’s admissions rate has seen a 15 to 20 percent increase in the current enrollment of its students.

“This year’s admissions success started with President Ross at the top and continues through Dr. Davida Haywood (vice president for Student Affairs), to our Admissions staff and is complemented with the generous advice, help and recruitment of local high school students by our Hornet Nation alumni,” he said. “It is a total team effort, and ASU is now seeing the fruit of its recruitment labor,” he said.

Feels At Home

Hall said the main reason he is now a student at Alabama State University is because an ASU alumni cared enough to offer him both advice and help.

“I didn’t know what school, if any, to attend after graduation from Tilden High until Mr. Cullar began helping me. He told me that great people come out of ASU, Hall said.

“I look up to him, and I want to be like him,” the incoming freshman said.

“So naturally, I want to attend the school he attended,” Hall said.

“This is the start of a new life for me!”