A city Frank W. Ballou High School in Washington, D.C., Cedric Jennings '99 appeared on Oprah last year after Ron Suskind, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for Wall Street Journal, wrote a book about him. A Hope in the Unseen: An American Odyssey From the Inner City to the Ivy League is the best-selling account of Jennings's life from high school through his first year on College Hill. (An excerpt appeared in the May/ June 1998 BAM.)
Since the book, Jennings has become an inspiration to kids and educators across the country, but the story of his past offers Jennings little help for coping with the same question his fellow graduates of all races must face: Okay, now that I've got a degree how do I get my dream job? Unlike the rest of his class, however, Jennings, thanks to the renown of A Hope in the Unseen, feels an acute sense of pressure.
"The main thing people are asking me about is the job," Jennings says, "and I really don't like talking about it." For the early part of the summer, Jennings and Suskind, who have remained close friends, toured together to promote the paperback edition of the book. Suskind was on hand for Jennings' graduation and will split the book's royalties with the Jennings family once his publishers have recouped their advance.
As of this writing, Jennings had not yet found the job he wants - an entry-level position in the music industry - but he wasn't, as yet, overly concerned. "A lot of people are asking me, 'Has it been worth going to an Ivy League school?'" He paused, as though stopping to think about the question for the first time. "Yeah," he says slowly. "Yeah, it has."